Lotus man Heikki Kovalainen was delighted following the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend and he now believes that they are almost up there with the 'next group', and poised to challenge the likes of Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Although Kovalainen had to retire on lap 59 due to a mechanical issue, the former McLaren man still took a lot of heart from the performance of his Cosworth-powered T127. Indeed he had quite a strong race and in the end set the 14th fastest lap, a 1 minute 18.401 seconds.

"It was a fantastic race right from the beginning. I had a bit of a struggle at the restarts to get the tyres up to temperature, but once I got everything working I was able to almost keep up with the Renault [of Vitaly Petrov]," Kovalainen said.

"I was pushing very hard, and the car felt fantastic - the balance was really good. Just before I retired I could feel the steering alignment was a bit uneven - on the right hand corners I had to use maximum lock, even in the tunnel, and it got the point where it didn't feel safe anymore.

"In Monaco you can't take a risk with it so I came in. It was a mechanical issue, but despite that I'm really pleased with today. We again showed we're firmly the best of the new teams and we are nearly there with the next group now, so I think we just need to keep attacking, and that is how we will achieve results."

Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne and team boss, Tony Fernandes meanwhile were also both encouraged.

Furthermore while neither Kovalainen or Jarno Trulli got to the chequered flag, the latter was at least classified - albeit 8 laps down in 15th after his coming together with Karun Chandhok [see separate story - click here].

"This was our strongest performance yet compared to the midfield, so obviously I have mixed emotions for where we finished," Gascoyne stated. "Heikki had a very strong race and in the middle his performance was particularly good compared to the midfield group. It's a shame we had a problem on his car - the steering joint failed, something we've not seen before - but overall it was a very positive weekend for him.

"For Jarno, he had a much more difficult weekend, clearly struggling with the balance of the car and I think as a team we have to take a look at everything to be able to do a better job for him. Obviously he was compromised by the slow pitstop, which dropped him down the field and affected his whole race.

"He was capable of going much faster and when he made the move he unfortunately fell victim to the nature of the Monaco circuit. So I leave feeling pleased we showed such good pace, and we move on to Turkey."

Fernandes added: "I take a lot of positives from this race and it was another one where we had at least one car classified. Most importantly Heikki made a great step forward and it was fantastic watching him race with Petrov. He and the whole team felt it was the best race of the season for him and that boosts confidence further for the season ahead.

"We've got some more new parts coming which will continue to take us forward, and hopefully Jarno's luck will turn, but even with that we're all pleased. It's also great to see so many of our fans out around the track - hopefully we gave them some good racing, and in years to come we'll give them some good results as well."