Team Lotus is edging so close to scoring its maiden points in F1 now that it can 'smell' them, Tony Fernandes has confessed, as he insists that '[if] you build things properly and with the right structure...things will fall into place' – and Heikki Kovalainen warns the established midfield contenders to be on their guard.
Despite a distinctly underwhelming start to its sophomore campaign in the top flight, the modern-day incarnation of Team Lotus – for as long as it is called as such, anyway – ostensibly took a sizeable step forward in the Chinese Grand Prix a week-and-a-half ago, seeming finally to get on top of its early reliability woes and beginning to make some headway into its tyre-warming issues.
In Shanghai, that progress was crystallized by Kovalainen pipping both a Sauber and a Williams to the chequered flag, and team-mate Jarno Trulli producing a better fastest lap time than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Points, Fernandes contends, are on the horizon.
“You build things properly and with the right structure, and things will fall into place,” the Malaysian entrepreneur told BBC Sport's
Andrew Benson, keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “My target this year was to maintain tenth [in the constructors' standings], and hopefully sneak a few points along the way. That is still my target.
“It is beginning to feel more realistic now, but one can't build a challenging F1 team in two years. We are competing against guys who have been there for 30 years, but obviously the team smell big steps of improvement. They smell points.
“I never want to kill confidence – I encourage it – but I am also a realist and we are competing against nine guys who have been doing it for years and are very good at it. But if you'd asked me did you think in Turkey you'd be where you are, I wouldn't have believed it.
“We've got a good package and good people; we have put all the infrastructure in-place. We're working on a new wind tunnel; that's the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and I think if you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, then the results will come in good time.”
Kovalainen, for his part, is pinning his hopes for a step forward in performance upon the advent of a 'bigger upgrade' for the Renault-powered T128 in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona next month
“The season has started well for us,” the 29-year-old Finn told ITV-F1
. “We still haven't got everything out of the car in qualifying I don't think, and we can't get everything out of the tyres, but in the races, generally, the performance has been stronger – and China was the best race in the team's history so far.
“That's something we can build on, and we've got a bigger upgrade coming for Barcelona, that will hopefully deliver us another step forward and we can join the midfield and really start racing the guys ahead of us!
“The top ten is not easy to break into – it's very tough and there are a lot of good teams and a lot of good drivers – but I think we are one of the teams that is making good progress; we have certainly moved up from where we were last year, and hopefully towards the end of the season we'll be close to the points. My only target is to score points, and every race I go with the mindset to go and score points.”