Lotus F1 boss Tony Fernandes has confirmed that his team is well on the way to being ready for the start of F1 2010.

Indeed he added that currently the outfit, known in Malaysia as the '1Malaysia F1 Team', which uses the 'Lotus F1 Racing' name under license by Proton, is ahead of schedule as it prepares for the first grand prix of the season in Bahrain on March 14.

"I started this project at Silverstone," Fernandes told 422race.com. "I was approached by the guys who put in the original Litespeed application and I had discussions with (former FIA president) Max Mosley. From there we started building the team. But until September, the team didn't have a slot. We took a little bit of a risk, but anyway we started spending money and building the car.

"It's looking good now, we are a week ahead of schedule. Come February, we will have a car ready. I'm very excited about being on the grid in Bahrain."

Lotus announced its driver line-up last month for F1 2010, signing experienced Toyota refugee Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton's former McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy, 2009 World Series By Renault vice-champion, was also signed as the third and reserve driver.

"We wanted experienced drivers," Fernandes explained. "Money can't buy experience. We wanted drivers who we liked, who are simple, down-to-earth like us, who want to work and develop something special and have a long career.

"What we are keen on doing is, we want drivers who want to drive. We weren't looking so much for paying drivers or whatever: get the right people behind the wheel and sponsors will come. Monetization will come.

"We didn't have a huge pool, but we've been very selective in who we wanted to work with us and we got our first choices. Alex (Yoong) is not going to be a driver, but we spent a lot of money during the last month to build a drivers' development programme (which he will head up).

"It was not important to have a Malaysian driver in year one: this is not a one-year project and I hope you'll be interviewing me over many, many years.

"Fairuz is a good guy though, he worked hard and he deserved a chance. I like people who struggled. Fairuz has gone up and down and done well in World Series. He's great, he has that extra appeal. For us the development is not just one driver."

Lotus will be one of four new entries on the starting grid next year - alongside Virgin Racing (formerly Manor Grand Prix), USF1 and Campos Meta 1 - and Fernandes' main hope is to ensure they are the best of that bunch.

"Well, our goal for 2010 is to be ahead of Virgin. Number two, finish all the races. I'll be very happy with that. Realistically, if we are the best of the new teams, then we would be successful. This is my realistic goal.

"For a team that got its entry in September, if we can do this, it would be a great start. I'm not someone who is going to make big declarations, because it's not going to happen. You start with a plan and you build, build, build.

"Ferrari, McLaren didn't come overnight. It takes time. But as long as we're committed, as long as we have a plan, as long as we stay focussed and disciplined, we will get there," he concluded.

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