Formula One veteran Jarno Trulli insists that the new Lotus team can establish itself as the best of this year's grand prix newcomers, echoing the belief of many in the Anglo-Malaysian operation.
The Italian, who recently signed up to spearhead the iconic marque's return to F1 alongside McLaren outcast Heikki Kovalainen, braved heavy snow across Europe and an air traffic controllers strike to visit Lotus' Higham facility in Norfolk for a seat fitting as the team motors towards its now confirmed February launch date [see separate story
Neither Kovalainen nor Trulli – a veteran of more than 200 grands prix – are making predictions of immediate success in 2010, but the Italian is confident that the squad can come out ahead of fellow newcomers USF1, Virgin and Campos Meta.
"We all know that we are starting from scratch, so I would say the first half of the season will be hard," a motivated Trulli told Reuters
, "I am sure we will eventually get some nice results.”
The former Monaco Grand Prix winner, who joined Lotus from a Toyota ship about to sink beneath the F1 waves, openly admits that the presence of former Jordan, Renault and Toyota team-mate Mike Gascoyne was a major persuasion in his decision to pitch in with the newcomer, but insists that the entire operation is looking impressive.
"It took a bit of time for me to understand and see what I wanted to do [but] eventually, because Mike was here, I said I would get on board,” he continued, “If it was another young team coming in, probably I would have gone away.
"If you look at our engineering department, our driver line-up and our budget, we are - and we should be - one of the strongest [new teams]. During the first year, it would be nice to get them some points, some nice finishes and nice battles and show them good progress."
Despite the low expectations, however, Trulli is optimistic that his experience can help drive Lotus forward – something he had hoped to achieve at his previous team before management in Japan decided to pull the plug.
"[Toyota motorsport director John Howett] probably knew much less than I knew about the team's future," the Italian claimed, having revealed that he was convinced the Cologne-based squad would close its doors, "A lot of last year's results were down to the direction I had given to the team in the last two years. We were coming back [to form] in 2009 and I was happy.”