Having made comfortably the most progress of the F1 2010 newcomers both on a performance level as well as with reliability, Lotus Racing arrives in Istanbul for the seventh round of the world championship campaign this weekend aiming to take further steps forward, and looking 'in front, not behind'.
After beginning the season with arguably the most dependable car out of itself, Virgin and Hispania – albeit not the fastest – once the team was fully satisfied with the reliability of the Cosworth-powered T127, the quest for pure speed began, and a 'front row' lock-out amongst the new boys in each of the last two qualifying sessions in Barcelona and Monaco was proof that improvements have now similarly been made in that respect.
What's more, the Istanbul Park Circuit – home to this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix – is one that both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli palpably enjoy. Two years ago, the Finn snatched his maiden front row start there in the top flight, and it is one of only two tracks at which the 28-year-old was never out-qualified by world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes – even though due to various misfortunes he has yet to finish any higher than sixth – whilst the Italian achieved a best of fourth in last year's event.
“It's good to be back in Turkey,” enthused Kovalainen. “The weather is usually nice here, and it seems the same this weekend. Turkey itself is really cool – Istanbul is a huge city with some great places to go. The harbour area is nice and it's good to try and take some time and have a look around there in the evening – I'm staying on the Asian side this weekend, so I'm not sure I'll get much time off, but it's still good to be here.
“The track is great – it's a big circuit and we get back to a normal open race course after Monaco. We're fully-prepared and I'm looking forward to practice to see what the new wing gives us, and where we are after seeing such good pace in the car in Monaco.”
“The track in Turkey is good – Turn Eight is challenging but the rest of it is relatively simple, and definitely not as tricky as Monaco!” added Trulli. “I'm looking forward to getting out on-track and having some better luck this weekend. My confidence in the car is growing all the time, so I hope a bit of luck and the updates we've put on here will help me have a better race this weekend.”
The updates to which the former Monaco Grand Prix-winner alludes are a new rear wing and a number of new aerodynamic and mechanical parts, that both chief technical director Mike Gascoyne and sporting director Dieter Gass hope will help to propel Lotus further towards the midfield, and therefore by extension further out-of-reach of the likes of Virgin and HRT.
“Looking back on Spain and Monaco, we've taken a good step forward in those races, and here in Turkey we're looking to keep on improving and racing the cars in front, not those behind,” asserted the Englishman. “We'll be using our new pillar-mounted rear wing, and we have some new parts which will enable us to optimise the weight distribution, so again, I'm quietly confident we'll bridge the gap to those in front that little bit more.”
“Looking back on the year so far, I think we can be extremely satisfied with what we have achieved,” echoed his German colleague. “We've completed all the targets we set out at the beginning of the season, and from the first time we started testing we have been reliable, which is a testament to the hard work put in by everyone in the team and our partners.
“Now we are working on making the car quicker and improving the gap to the established teams; we are getting there, and this weekend – and at Silverstone – we're looking to take more steps forward. Turkey is a track the drivers like as it presents a good challenge – some high and low-speed corners, and the famous triple-apex Turn Eight, all test the balance of the car and the aero performance.
“It's always a challenge for the engineers and the drivers to set up the car, so it's going to be an interesting weekend here – but we have very experienced people throughout the team, so I'm confident we'll put on a good show. I wouldn't say Istanbul Park either suits, or doesn't suit our car, and I think we'll be pretty much where we were in Barcelona, but we are looking to take another step forward with the next batch of updates.”