Pre-season suggestions that Team Lotus may be ready to mix it with the F1 midfield were a little wide of the mark during qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix, as both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli again found themselves ousted in phase one.
Although the pair managed to get ahead of Williams' Pastor Maldonado in the third and final free practice session, the achievement was masked by the fact that the Venezuelan rookie spun out after just five laps, and reality was restored in the first 20-minute qualifying session when 19th and 20th positions proved to be the height of possibility.
Both Kovalainen and Trulli reported technical issues which they felt had hampered their performance, with the Finn, in particular, sure that he could have gone faster had the new-for-2011 adjustable rear wing functioned properly.
"Unfortunately, the rear wing was stuck in the high downforce configuration for the second run, which definitely masked the real pace there is in the car," Kovalainen commented, "We've also struggled with getting the most out of the tyres all weekend, but I think the increased temperatures tomorrow will suit the car much more and we'll be in good shape to show what we can really do in the race."
Trulli shared his team-mate's view on the new Pirelli rubber, and was confident that the longer distances the tyres would be required to travel on Sunday would be to the T128's advantage.
"I've had a few issues with the power steering in practice, but the team worked well to resolve that for qualifying and the car definitely felt better than it had this morning and yesterday," the Italian veteran reported, "We'll clearly be much quicker when we can get the tyres up to full temperature, so it'll be an exciting race for us tomorrow and I think we'll be in good shape to push the guys ahead who we were much closer to in the warmer conditions in pre-season testing."
Both team owner Tony Fernandes and chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne insisted that they were happy with the result, although the former admitted that problems in the pre-season had probably played a part in the outcome of the session.
"Obviously, we are paying the price of the limited running we had in testing, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous before the session and, having seen where we ended up, I am pleased with what both drivers produced today," Fernandes claimed, "We continue to learn all the time and, as this is essentially a completely new car, we have to work hard on a number of areas to help us achieve our full potential, particularly on tyre management.
"The car looks like it has Malaysian blood, as it clearly prefers hotter conditions but, despite that, we are all looking forward to the race tomorrow and, with much more development to come here, in Malaysia and China, before we head back to Europe, I am happy with where we are today."