Despite his delight at finishing ahead of Sauber and Williams
in the recent Chinese Grand Prix, Heikki Kovalainen
admits that Team Lotus still has work to do to bridge the gap to the midfield.
The Finn came home 16th in China - not his, or Lotus', best finish of the year, but notably ahead of Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado
- giving Team Lotus encouragement after a couple of races blighted by irritating mechanical gremlins. However, while the team management continue to make noises about joining the established midfield runners on a regular basis, Kovalainen remains realistic.
"For the first time since a long time, we were actually racing cars properly on track," the former grand prix winner said of the Chinese race, "It was a great feeling and we just need to carry on doing that every weekend from now on.
"The target has to be to join the midfield and to be ahead of the established teams that are directly ahead of us. That's what we are working on but, in certain conditions, especially in qualifying, the gap is still not small enough. We are still on our own land, if you like. But, in some other conditions, in warmer conditions etc, we have already got close a couple of times and, hopefully, the upgrades that we are bringing to the next few races will be bigger than the direct competition ahead of us. That's what we have got to be targeting as a team and I think we can do it."
Power steering problems have been the bane of Kovalainen and team-mate Jarno Trulli's season so far, and the team hopes to introduce a cure for that as well as a first stage aero upgrade at Istanbul Park, even if the gremlins have prevented much back-to-back testing from taking place over the first three race weekends of the year.
"If we were expecting to go backwards, I think something would be wrong," Kovalainen concluded, "You've got to be expecting to go forwards - that's why the teams are in F1, that's why all the teams have got such capabilities and that's why the better teams are at the front, because they have more advanced technology and facilities and whatever, to go further ahead.
"I think it's correct to expect to go better and, at the back, we probably expect to make bigger steps forward, relative to the opponents, than the Red Bulls and McLarens, because they have less margin. It's correct to expect that we would be gaining, and we are in a position at the moment where, hopefully, a small relative gain to our direct opponents will result us actually jumping ahead so you can see it on the scorecard.
"Then, of course, the next step gets tricky - to gain on Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull
is another story."