In the week that the first Lotus F1 car took to the test track – and a day before the machine is officially revealed to the watching world – Tony Fernandes has revealed his immense pride that in the face of a considerable degree of cynicism, the Anglo-Malaysian outfit has 'proven a few people wrong'.
There has been, at one stage or another, doubt expressed about the likelihood of each and every one of the four F1 2010 newcomers – Lotus, Virgin Racing and the financially-troubled USF1 and Campos Meta 1 – actually making the starting grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix
at Sakhir in just over four weeks' time, but after Virgin overcame a fumbled online launch to successfully shake down its new VR-01 at Silverstone last week ahead of its group test debut at Jerez yesterday (Wednesday), Lotus is next in-line.
Test and reserve driver Fairuz Fauzy was given the honour of putting the first laps on the similarly Cosworth-powered challenger, and after reporting a positive initial impression, the first hurdle has now been crossed. It was, acknowledged team principal Fernandes, a seminal moment.
“Obviously there were lots of glitches and lots of things that need to be tidied up, but they did enough work to be able to correct it for Jerez,” the AirAsia founder told Crash.net Radio
, alluding to next week's third pre-season testing outing at the southern Spanish circuit. “Fairuz did the Malaysian thing, which was to say 'it felt good'. That's very important to me, going into something with that feeling that 'this could be something good', and he felt that we were onto something very special.
“He was giving me all the technical stuff like the fact that the gear-sequencing wasn't quite right and that there were a few hydraulic issues which is normal, but when I asked what else, he said 'It feels good – it feels like we're at the start of something'. That's what I wanted to hear, and it made me very happy.
“We've proven a few people wrong. It was fantastic to have our car out at Silverstone and do four or five laps. There's lots of work to do, of course – we're under no illusions that we're going to be at the front straightaway – but it was great to have the car out. I think that was an achievement. Mike [Gascoyne – technical director] has done a fantastic job from getting the entry so late to have actually produced a car that starts! And obviously on Friday we unveil it to the world...
“It will all truly become real in Bahrain, when we hopefully finish the race – then I will say it's real. I don't care where we finish, but I would love to finish that race. Unveiling the car is another step forward in the reality and the world can see that it's not just words anymore – they can see it's live, and that we're here to stay. That I think is when we go from 'Is it really there?' to 'It's there' – and that's a big step. Friday is a big step.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE