Team Lotus man Heikki Kovalainen is expecting the Norfolk-based outfit to make a real step forward this season.

Tony Fernandes' squad finished F1 2010 as the best of the new teams and while the gap to the midfield was a big one, there is a belief they may be able to really get in amongst that fight with the all-new T128. Indeed Kovalainen is certainly feeling positive in the countdown to this weekend's F1 2011 season opener in Australia.

"As Melbourne is now the start of the season it will be very exciting," said the Finn. "The Australian fans are great people and the city always has a carnival atmosphere because the race is right in the middle of town.

"The track itself is a semi-street circuit so it's tricky. It evolves a lot throughout the weekend as the rubber builds up and traction and grip improves. On Friday morning it's always very slippery and you need to bear that in mind when you're setting the car up. It's a difficult track to overtake on and whether we get an opportunity to make the moveable wing really work for us there is still open to question.

"Whatever happens though I'm really excited about getting back to racing and with the steps forward we have taken this year I think we're going to have a really good year."

Team boss Fernandes meanwhile is equally looking forward to Melbourne, although he knows it is crucial for the squad to get results and to make progress in 2011.

"I cannot wait to get back to racing. This is a very important season for Team Lotus as we are no longer a new team - we achieved what we set out to in 2010 but now it's effectively a clean sheet - an entirely new car, a fully-fledged race team and factory and much higher aspirations," he added.

"Now comes the next phase of the hard work - time to prove that our pre-season promise can help us take the next step forward in the amazing story that is Team Lotus."

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