Tony Fernandes has revealed that he is so proud of the way in which Lotus Racing has progressed and earned its place on the grand prix grid over the course of its maiden campaign in F1 2010, that he would rate the team with an 'A' for achievement and effort with five races left to run.
Lotus might have yet to trouble the points-scorers in the top flight – or even come close, for that matter – but the Anglo/Malaysian outfit has clearly outperformed fellow newcomers Virgin and Hispania (HRT), and has a number of ambitious plans in the pipeline, including a name change to the iconic 'Team Lotus' moniker and a widely-anticipated engine-supply and technical agreement with Renault in 2011.
With the Hingham-based operation's two Cosworth-powered T127s for former grand prix-winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen sporting the legendary gold-and-green livery of Lotus entries of yore, it has been an impressive debut season for Fernandes' squad, and the Malaysian entrepreneur admits that thus far, all of his hopes and expectations have been met and then some.
“At this stage I'd give us an 'A' grade and I'd say it's been a fantastic season for the team in its first year,” the 46-year-old told the official F1 website. “There have obviously been highs-and-lows, but just being on the grid in Bahrain was an incredible achievement and now, 14 races in, it still feels like the dream is coming true.
“I'm obviously looking forward to the remaining races this season, and the battle with our nearest rivals is great for the fans and for all the teams involved – but for all of us, next year is going to be very exciting.”
Fernandes is the man who launched Malaysia's first low-budget airline, AirAsia, just under a decade ago, and he insists that juggling his two key business interests is turning out to be far more of a pleasure than a time-consuming chore.
“Initially, I wanted the AirAsia shareholders to feel confident that I was devoting enough time to the business, but after another record year I think they've realised I can do both,” he explained. “I have a fantastic CEO in Riad [Asmat] and an amazing chief technical officer in Mike [Gascoyne]. With video-conferencing, Blackberry, e-mail and every other form of communication at our disposal, I think I'll be team principal for a few more years.”