Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock have called for a little more time and respect to be given to F1 2010 newcomers Lotus, Virgin and Hispania (HRT), with sniping continuing about their respective performances in Bahrain this weekend for the curtain-raising grand prix, and suggestions that the 107 per cent cut-off rule could be re-introduced from next year in an effort to weed out those who simply aren't good enough.
Lotus in particular has come a long way in a very short space of time, having been the last of the new teams to be granted an entry for 2010 back in September. Anything upwards of four seconds shy of the leading pace during pre-season testing, that situation has persisted in Sakhir – prompting some to complain that the difference in speed could lead to even more mutterings about 'traffic' during qualifying and dangerous scenarios on race day, with significant disparities in speed between the front-runners and the also-rans.
Kovalainen, though, argues that in the time in which the entire project has had to be put together, little else could have been expected – and that in more time, progress will
“Obviously it was a very different winter,” the Finn acknowledged. “We started from zero with the team, and we have seen the team growing and building all the time. We managed to do a little bit of testing but arrived here a little bit on the back foot. The first day was fantastic – both cars have been running without any problems so far. It is very good and the atmosphere is very good. I am enjoying it.
“It is not [about] confidence. What is lacking is another ten-to-20 months of time, to give the team a bit of a chance to put some performance into the car. We built the car and the team in just under six months, and you cannot ask for more than this. We put the car on the track in testing, and here we look like a professional racing team – you cannot expect performance to be better than this yet, [but] I am sure it will be.
“We have already shown many things that not many teams could do, so I have all the confidence that given a bit of time – give us a year or two, even less than that – we can put a lot of performance in the car and move up the grid. You have got to start somewhere and we are still growing, we are still building the team. I am very confident in fact. I feel 100 per cent in shape – we just need a bit of time.”
As to his hopes for the remainder of the weekend, the former McLaren-Mercedes ace – who, alongside fellow grand prix-winning team-mate Jarno Trulli, helps to constitute what is arguably the best and inarguably the most experienced driver line-up of any of the new teams in F1 this year – quips that 'if we could find three or four seconds it would be pretty good', before putting a more serious slant on things.
“I am sure we will be working hard,” the 28-year-old acknowledged, “but we do not know yet what everybody else has done. We have just focussed on our own preparation [during practice], like a professional racing team does. We will prepare for the race, we have compared the tyres, we have done various checks with the set-up and tried to tune the car for the circuit and also for myself getting adapted to the circuit. That is what we are really worried about.
“I am sure eventually we can close the gap to the leaders, and that is what we are here for but it will not happen overnight. The teams ahead of us are all good teams. Formula 1 is incredibly competitive, but we have been quite brave. We have entered the competition and from what we have shown [in practice] I think we can go with chin up, full steam ahead.”