In its 'home' outing in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, Jarno Trulli has conceded that Team Lotus needs to do what it so notably failed to do in the Melbourne F1 2011 curtain-raiser just under a fortnight ago – demonstrate the kind of potential it displayed during pre-season testing.
Having made some big noises over the winter about taking a sizeable step forward in its sophomore campaign of top flight competition – and with Renault engines and Red Bull gearbox and hydraulics technology, far more pieces of the jigsaw did indeed appear to be in-place – Team Lotus backed up its bold assertions with promising midfield-threatening pace from the new T128 in the group tests.
And then in Australia, everything suddenly fell flat, as myriad reliability and set-up woes stunted progress and to all intents and purposes left the team in precisely the same position as that in which it had concluded F1 2010 – the best of the three newcomers, but still some way adrift of the least competitive of the more established contenders. Trulli acknowledges that in Kuala Lumpur, improvements need to be made.
“We need to get the best out of the car, which we didn't in Australia, and be part of the midfield,” reflected the experienced Italian. “I believe the winter-time testing showed our good pace, but we struggled quite a lot in Australia. We had several troubles with the radiator [and] power steering, so we didn't get the best out of the car, which we want to do here.
“We have got some fixes, several updates on the car, so we hope to get right into the tight midfield battle and let's see then. It is very important first of all that we fix the problems, and that we show that we are really close to the others.”
Trulli has been preparing for what is by common consent the most physically punishing race on the annual F1 calendar by training with a professional local cycling team – and he has been quick to qualify comments attributed to him that seemed to criticise Pirelli's tyre performance Down Under.
“I think that came from a completely wrong translation,” the 36-year-old explained. “I actually said that Pirelli did a very good job for Australia. We didn't expect to have a problem with the tyres warming up, but actually we didn't have degradation. One driver did a one-stop strategy which, during winter testing, was completely out-of-mind.
“For the Australian Grand Prix, the tyres behaved completely differently and extremely well [compared to] the experience we had during winter testing. The only thing that I pointed out is that some people struggled for tyre warm-up, which was the case for several drivers. This showed that we still have a lot to learn – from a drivers' and teams' point-of-view – about the tyres, but Pirelli is trying to adjust themselves as well and trying to give us the best possible option for the conditions, weather and circuit.”