Jarno Trulli has assessed the situation at Lotus Racing ahead of the F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir in a week-and-a-half's time, contending that at the scene of his most recent pole position in the top flight, the Anglo/Malaysian newcomer is around four seconds shy of the leading pace and 'ready for racing, but not really for fighting'.
Lotus concluded the final pre-season test around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya at the weekend almost five seconds adrift of the outright benchmark in the hands of Heikki Kovalainen and two seconds away from the slowest of the established teams, albeit narrowly ahead of fellow newcomer Virgin.
On his own last day inside the cockpit of the Mike Gascoyne-penned, Cosworth-powered T127, Trulli had actually managed to leap ahead of the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, winding up 4.4 seconds off Nico Rosberg's fastest effort for Mercedes Grand Prix. It will be a similar scenario, the 35-year-old Pescara native opines, when the serious action gets underway in the desert kingdom next weekend, with performance having been sacrificed for laudable reliability in the initial stages.
“We are not happy with the pace that we have at the moment, but we knew we wouldn't be,” ESPN
quotes the experienced Italian as having reflected, as he suggested that in Lotus' case at least, the lap times seen during testing are fairly representative. “We are ready for racing, but not really for fighting. Maybe we can fight with Virgin, but the rest of the field is still out of reach.”
Warning not to expect too much from Lotus until the first major upgrade is introduced in time for the beginning of the European leg of the campaign – with the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona in early May – Trulli confessed that whilst progress will come, instant miracles are unlikely.
“The same as [Barcelona testing] basically, not much more,” the former Monaco Grand Prix-winner revealed of his expectations for Bahrain. “Unfortunately, I am not a magician. It would be nice to score a point, but it is not going to be easy. We have to be realistic – we are probably four seconds off.
“We already know what is wrong, but we don't have enough time to sort it out right away. We knew in advance where the weaknesses were, but we have to get ready for Bahrain and ship everything over, so there is no time left. Once we return to Europe, we will probably make a step forward.”
“We reckon we will be 3.5 seconds off the fastest car [in Bahrain], an improvement of five seconds from Jerez,” concurred an upbeat team principal Tony Fernandes. “We keep chipping away.”
Those sentiments are largely echoed by Gascoyne, who has brought with him to Lotus a wealth of experience from previous employers McLaren, Sauber, Tyrrell, Toyota, Renault, Jordan and Force India and who insists that the Hingham-based concern is 'in very good shape' for its F1 bow given that it has had a scant eight testing days to prepare for Sakhir.
The T127 might currently be lacking in terms of out-and-out raw pace, but its designer is clearly 'proud' of the team's progress in the five months it has had since officially gaining a 2010 entry – and hopeful of achieving on-track respectability during its maiden campaign of competition as it carries the weight of the iconic Lotus name.
“The test was extremely productive,” the Englishman summarised of Barcelona. “In general we've had very good reliability, and the team is in very good shape going to the first race. Considering the length of time we've had to work on the project, it's a fantastic effort from the whole team. Everyone has worked exceptionally hard over the two tests, and we now have to work on the pace of the car and improve that – but it's been a tremendous effort from the whole team and I'm very proud of them.”