Jarno Trulli has backed up team principal Tony Fernandes' claim that the 'new' Lotus team can rise through the Formula One ranks and become a legitimate challenger for honours.

The Italian's prophecy came despite the disappointment of retiring on the final lap of the team's debut in Bahrain, but after Lotus became the only one of the three new teams to get a car to the chequered flag, after Trulli's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen finished the 49 laps in 15th spot.

While HRT's story has been well-documented following the problems that beset original entrant Campos Meta1, Lotus has less time than its direct rivals to pull its programme together but, just six months after it was granted an F1 entry on the demise of BMW Sauber, the Malaysian-backed outfit was able to celebrate a successful conclusion to its debut.

"I made a good start and avoided the accident at the second corner, but found myself in the gravel so, at that stage, I was nearly last," Trulli reflected, "I started picking up pace and catching the people in front, but the car was understeering quite a lot and I couldn't really predict the balance. At the pit-stop, the team - who did a really good job - changed the front wing setting and I started pushing again and putting in some good laps."

With both HRT and Virgin Racing cars dropping out in the early stages, the stage was set for Lotus to claim bragging rights with both cars in parc ferme when Trulli slowed.

"At the end of the race, I had a hydraulic problem so I just had to get it to the end of the race," he admitted, having been shown as 'stopped' in the final sector of the extended BIC lap, "However, I'm really happy and proud for the team because, in six months, every single target we have fixed we have met so it's really good. As Tony said, one day Lotus will win and I hope to be here when we do."

Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admitted that the race hadn't been perfect for either driver, but was quick to offer praise to the entire team, which worked tirelessly throughout the weekend.

"I have to say thank you to both drivers, as they drove great races," Gascoyne concluded, "Jarno struggled early on but, when he changed to the soft tyre, he was much more competitive. However, apologies to Heikki, because he may have suffered from the strategy, and apologies to Jarno, because he had a hydraulics problem and he had to slow down to get the car to the finish, but overall it was a great result.

"I'm very very proud of the whole team - everyone here and back in Hingham."

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