Jarno Trulli has welcomed the advances made by Team Lotus at the Spanish Grand Prix, but has warned Tony Fernandes' operation that it needs to keep working in order to move up the order.
While team-mate Heikki Kovalainen retired from the race in Barcelona, Trulli finished 18th after an up-and-down race that, at one point, saw him threaten to take the fight to the more established teams in the midfield. In the end, however, the Italian veteran had to make do with finishing where he started, albeit well clear of Marussia Virgin and HRT, with whom Team Lotus had battled last season.
The gain was the result of the first major upgrade for the team's T128 chassis and, although Kovalainen's 15th place in qualifying was largely due to the misfortune of others, Trulli believes that the Hingham outfit is making progress.
“t was a tough weekend until the race, and that then turned out to be much better,” he reflected, “The team is doing a great job as we took some big aero update which eventually showed how close we were with the midfield pack. As for our direct rivals from last year, we lapped them, so it just shows how farther we have gone.”
Despite the optimism, however, Trulli was quick to point out that Team Lotus has yet to bridge the gap to the likes of Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso, and would continue to occupy F1's equivalent of 'no man's land' if further gains were not made.
“We need a further step in order to be an established midfield runner,” he insisted, “Last week was great because, for half the race, I was battling with the guys in the midfield. Then we fell a little bit apart with the hard tyres. We knew we were struggling with them, but definitely the team is doing a very good job.”
Trulli, along with rivals at other struggling teams, admits that this weekend's race in Monaco could provide the best opportunity to shake up the results and, with a degree of good fortune, secure some valuable points. A former winner around the streets of the Principality, the Italian concedes that he would like nothing more than to kick-start Lotus' F1 return with a top ten place on Sunday.
“[We hope to do the] same or better – and we always look to do better,” he responded, when asked about the team's aims for the weekend, “Obviously, Monaco is Monaco. We know anything can happen and it is unpredictable, [but] we have the confidence to think positive and come here and say that we can do better than Barcelona, so let's hope we can really succeed.
“We won't get any feedback until we have Thursday practice and we get an idea [of how things will be]. In the past, I remember, before this race, I was starting on pole and then, in this race, I was starting on the last row of the grid, so it just shows how important the car is around the streets of Monaco.”