Mike Gascoyne has stuck two fingers up at the F1 establishment that doubted Lotus Racing's credentials prior to the start of the 2010 world championship – and revealed that after 'ticking the first box' of reaching the chequered flag on its Bahrain Grand Prix debut, the next objective is to 'look at Toro Rosso or Sauber'.
Heikki Kovalainen crossed the finish line two laps down in 15th and penultimate position in Sakhir last weekend, and whilst team-mate Jarno Trulli in the sister, Racing Green-and-Yellow liveried T127 stopped out on-track on the final tour with hydraulic woes, the experienced Italian was similarly classified, in 17th place.
That made Lotus the only one of the three newcomers to reach the end of the race in the desert kingdom – something of an achievement in itself, given how late the whole project came together and was granted an official entry last September – and whilst performance was arguably no great shakes, for a team that has focussed predominantly on reliability over the winter months, a fastest lap for Kovalainen just 2.5 seconds off that of record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes Grand Prix was arguably none-too-shabby either.
Having successfully overcome the first hurdle and gained the respect of its competitors, with weight set to be taken out of a the car and some significant upgrades in the pipeline for the beginning of the European leg of the campaign in Barcelona in early May, Lotus chief technical officer Gascoyne affirms that the goal for the Anglo/Malaysian outfit is now to start moving on up and rattling the cages of some of the more well-established contenders.
“This is a great start,” the Englishman enthused, speaking to Reuters
. “We've done the first massive step; we've now got to take some more. For us, it's not about the new teams – it's now about looking at Toro Rosso or Sauber in front of us. They are the ones we've got to look at, close the gap and go racing – and we'll get on with doing it.
“We are pushing forward now. We had to do so much just to be here and compromise so much. Now it's about moving forward from the base we've got, so we'll attack it.”
“I'm very pleased, elated really,” he added, according to Yalla F1
. “We weren't exactly conservative [in the design and development of the T127], but we took the decision that we've got to be reliable and finish the first few races. We made some conscious engineering decisions that I think have paid off.
“We've got to work on the one-lap pace, but I've always said that it's not about where we are in Bahrain, it's about where we are in Barcelona, Silverstone and in Abu Dhabi. We've ticked the first box and climbed the first massive hurdle, and the next one is performance. We'll be pushing everywhere. For those who said that new teams shouldn't be here, you saw Heikki fighting with [Nico] Hülkenberg and all of that, so we're here, we're racing – and **** you!”
Team founder and principal Tony Fernandes was perhaps predictably a little more measured in his comments, even if he too is palpably enthusiastic about the progress that Lotus has made so far. The weight of expectation of one of the most iconic names in motor racing may remain, but with a sensible approach and solid goals, the ambition to be challenging for and scoring points come season's end does not seem to be an overly unrealistic one.
“We've got to keep to what we said,” the AirAsia founder told Reuters
. “The main thing was to finish all the races, keep learning and keep developing. If we can move up the grid, great – but that's not the objective for this year.
“I've always said the key thing – and I've kept telling Mike and the shareholders and everyone involved in Lotus – is this is not about trying to do things quicker than we can. It's about building a really solid structure. We are going to be here for a long time, so there's no point putting up a rickety house that will fall apart in two years.”