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.