Lotus Racing is aiming to out-develop its immediate F1 rivals as it strives to reach its goal of midfield competition in its maiden campaign in the top flight in 2010 - and the most impressive of the newcomers is hopeful that a 'significant' package of updates for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix will be the first step towards successfully achieving that objective.

Having demonstrated greater reliability than fellow new arrivals Virgin and Hispania (HRT) - on Heikki Kovalainen's car, at least - during the first four races of the season, Lotus is now more-or-less on a par with the former in terms of lap time too, with qualifying honours two-apiece.

Since China, the Anglo/Malaysian outfit has beaten the Icelandic ash cloud, unpacked and repacked 34 tonnes of freight, run an intensive series of chassis tests, fitted the upgrade package to both race cars, taken delivery of its newly-painted race trailers and flown the race team to Barcelona - and now Mike Gascoyne is palpably eager to see the results.

"Now the first four 'flyaway' races are behind us and we're into the European season," stated the team's experienced chief technical officer. "All the teams will have upgrades for Barcelona, but we're hoping ours' is even more significant than [those of] our rivals, because we received our entry so late and had to freeze the initial specification of the car very early in the design process.

"We do expect it to be reasonably significant - we have an aero package with revised sidepods, front wings and brake ducts, and a number of mechanical changes - but obviously we'll have to wait and see what step forward our rivals will also make.

"Straight after Barcelona we go to Monaco, which is a totally different challenge. It's a unique place in terms of its configuration. Everyone runs maximum downforce and obviously it's a very tight, bumpy street circuit, but the experience our two drivers bring - combined with the progress we've made at the factory and on-track - gives me confidence we'll put in a good showing at both races.

"It's very gratifying to see the whole factory in full operation, with every department now nearly fully-staffed and starting to work to their full potential. This means we can look at more long-term development and R&D programmes, and start thinking about future cars. We're through the hardest part of the team's growth, and we're on a very good footing for the future."

Those sentiments are shared by team principal and founder Tony Fernandes, who admits that he is justifiably proud of what Lotus has accomplished in such a short timeframe to-date - and of the manner in which the Hingham-based squad has established itself both on-track and in the hearts and minds of F1 fans.

"We're back in Europe and I couldn't be more pleased with the position we arrive in," enthused the AirAsia entrepreneur. "The first phase of Lotus Racing's life is now behind us, and the next challenge starts here. We've proved all the doubters wrong, and have shown that the hard work everyone in the team puts in is making the dream we share come true.

"I remember the immense pride I had when I first saw the cars run in the pre-season tests in Spain, and in Barcelona we're back, ahead of the other new teams and with a new package that will help us push on closer to the next goal, which is to take on the midfield. Ultimately it's about taking Lotus Racing to the front of the grid, and this marks the next step in that journey.

"On a personal level I've always loved coming to Spain, and with Monaco straight afterwards I'm very excited about seeing how our fan base is growing into the traditional heartland of Formula 1. We've broken new ground in Australia, Asia and China - and now we're back at the scene of some of the most famous moments in Lotus' history."

Kovalainen and team-mate Jarno Trulli are similarly enthusiastic about what lies ahead, with the former confessing to being something of a 'street fighter', and the latter keen to banish the ill-fortune that has plagued him thus far this season - and happy to soon be returning to the scene of his greatest moment in F1 to-date.

"It's always good to get to Barcelona, as it's where most of the teams bring their first big updates," affirmed Kovalainen. "It's a very fast track and all the teams spend a lot of time there pre-season, so we know it very well - but it's the complete opposite to racing in Monte Carlo.

"In Barcelona there are more chances to overtake, but nowhere else has the same glamour or prestige as Monaco. It's so busy there on-track there's no time to relax, and there are no run-off areas so you pay heavily for any mistakes. I really like street circuits - you are rewarded for good car control, so I'm looking forward to getting on-track and seeing what steps forward we've taken with the updates."

"I've managed to fit in a number of good training sessions [since Shanghai], and am looking forward to getting back in the car," echoed Trulli. "I think I've had a fair bit of bad luck so far, but I'm looking to put that behind me and see how much further forward we can go with the updates. I've kept in close touch with the team about the tests they've put the car through, and am encouraged by the results they've had.

"I like Barcelona and I think we'll take a good step forward in Spain - we all know every bit of it very well as we test there a lot, and have raced there for years. Monaco is obviously a very special place for me - a lot of my fans will be out in force and I love going back to where I've won, so that will be a busy, but good week."