Jarno Trulli has admitted that, had it not been for the lure of helping to guide Lotus F1's entry on the famous name's return to the top flight, he would have thought about moving on.
While conceding that the team's first major ambition for 2010 has to be to establish credibility among its peers, he reveals that he will have no trouble motivating himself for another year of trying to grind out respectable results. Many saw Trulli's appearance in a NASCAR stock car at the end of 2009 - where he joined former F1 colleague Mika Salo in trying a Michael Waltrip Toyota - as a hint that he was looking at an alternative career, but the Italian insists that he was merely satisfying a curiosity.
"I did consider leaving [F1], and there were some options, but the NASCAR [test] was just a way to try something different," he maintains, "I had been driving a racing car for years and years, and I had never driven a GT or closed-cockpit car, but, eventually, the love for the open cockpit, and the feeling that you have in the open cockpit, was still inside me. It was too strong, so I was hoping always to get a good chance in F1. And looking at where F1 is heading, this is a good chance.
"It is not a question of motivating yourself. You are motivated only if you love driving, and if you still think you can do something special. If you are still quick, you still feel that you can do something special on the track and get the best out of the car, so this motivates me. Obviously, I know I am going to face a very hard season, but there is always a challenge inside a challenge. And this is what a driver really has to look for.
"I know that I cannot think about winning a race for Lotus this year, but I can think that I can score the first point at the first race, and this will be a big achievement for me and the team. So there is still some good motivation."
Trulli helped to unveil the team's first 'new era' challenger in London on Friday and immediately admitted that his experience will be important to the team, which is returning the Lotus name to F1 for the first time since 1994.
"I would say that an experienced driver is very important, and I have to give the right direction as quick and as well as possible because we have very little time, and the budget is not unlimited for a F1 team these days," the Italian reiterated, "The next big challenge will be making a step forward in terms of aero updates, which will probably come in Barcelona, then again after five or six races."
"Obviously we know it is not going to be easy and we are running out of time. What we have done, and the guys have achieved, is great - I have a lot of respect for the people who have been working on this project - but, on the other hand, for this year, we have to be very realistic. We know that we are heading to Bahrain and have to deal with a lot of troubles and solve the problems, but the most important thing is that we stick together and be patient.
"For the first year, we have to be reliable, decent and show good progress. We cannot believe that we will be on top straight away - that is unrealistic."