Jarno Trulli has reflected that in joining Anglo/Malaysian F1 2010 newcomer Lotus Racing for his 14th season in the top flight, he is to all intents and purposes 're-starting from zero' – but still the Italian can scarcely conceal his pride at his new challenge to take one of the sport's most legendary names 'back to where it belongs'.
Trulli was classified 17th and last at the end of the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir at the weekend, though he didn't actually take the chequered flag after stopping out on the circuit on the final lap with hydraulic woes. That – allied to the fact that the Pescara native's fastest race lap was almost five seconds shy of that of pace-setter Fernando Alonso – gives some indication as to the size of the mountain that lies ahead of the revived Lotus entry this year in its maiden campaign of competition at the highest level.
Twelve months earlier, Trulli had set his most recent pole position in the desert kingdom, and gone on to claim the bottom step on the rostrum in the grand prix itself – and whilst it was a very different story as F1 2010 revved into gear, the 35-year-old insists that he remains as fiercely-determined and fired-up as ever.
“You have to re-start from zero, from scratch, like here,” he told Reuters
, “and try to do again what I have done before, pushing the team and giving the team the direction technically and bringing it back to a certain level. I am the kind of person who is never happy enough, but I try to fix my target. Sometimes you also have to be happy just to get things right and be here and try to work on this fantastic project.”
Given that he qualified 20th of the 24 competitors and had precious few opportunities to do battle with anybody during the race, that composure and inner peace is arguably just as well – especially as the task ahead is a daunting one indeed, even for a driver of Trulli's extensive experience.
In its original incarnation as Team Lotus between 1958 and 1994, the Colin Chapman-founded operation clinched 13 world championship crowns in its heyday – six drivers' laurels and seven constructors' trophies, leaving the marque fourth in the all-time honours list. It also emerged victorious in no fewer than 73 grands prix and employed the likes of the late Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Peterson and Ayrton Senna, Sir Stirling Moss, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Mika Hakkinen – illustrious names within the sport one and all. No pressure to perform, then.
“Taking Lotus back on the track after 16 years is something important,” Trulli acknowledged. “You can breathe the air of Lotus. It will be hard at the beginning, but the intention of everyone behind this project is to take Lotus back to where it belongs. It will take some time – but we are serious about it.
“I'm really proud, but I am also old enough to understand that I am responsible. I cannot leave the team where it is now; I want to bring it back to where it belongs. I don't want to ruin the name and the heritage of Lotus, because Lotus can only be second to Ferrari – not to anyone else in the paddock.”