Team Lotus will make a small mark on F1 history at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, when it runs two of its development squad drivers in the opening free practice session.
Having already run Karun Chandhok and Davide Valsecchi in the corresponding sessions in Australia and Malaysia, the Tony Fernandes-run squad has revealed that it will field both
official third driver Luiz Razia and test driver Valsecchi on Friday morning in Shanghai.
“In China we have Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi driving for us in FP1,” chief technical office Mike Gascoyne confirmed, "I think Shanghai will be another interesting weekend for us, especially as we have had two races so far in such different conditions.
"In Melbourne, the tyres lasted longer than I think everyone expected and then, in Malaysia, there was much higher drop-off and multiple stops as a result. In China, we will all be in slightly unknown territory with the tyres and the cooler temperatures will mean the most important goal for us will be to maximise our track time on Friday and Saturday morning, getting the cars set up properly for qualifying and bridging the gap to make it into Q2."
While running two inexperienced drivers - Razia and Valsecchi are team-mates at Team AirAsia in GP2 - may not necessaily yield the results the Hingham is looking for, Lotus clearly remains committed to balancing its driver development program with the needs of the F1 squad.
The latter, however, is searching for much-needed reliability after losing a car in each of the opening rounds, and not yet being able to live up to its expectation of running with the midfield regulars.
"We head to China after taking a good step forward in Malaysia, but we are all focused on the reality of where we are now and know there we have a lot of work ahead of us," team principal Fernandes admitted.
"The main aim for me now is to improve our reliability and make sure both cars cross the finish line on Sunday. We have shown there is pace in the car, and there will be more to come when we start putting the updates on in Europe, but now we have to make sure we give the drivers the time they need on track to optimise the setup and the only way to do that is to avoid reliability issues."
Regular pilots Heikki Kovalainen
and Jarno Trulli, who have one finish apiece this season, will be back in the car for FP2 on Friday and for the remainder of the weekend.