Lotus team boss Eric Boullier admits he has mixed emotions after the opening two rounds of the new F1 season, with the Enstone-based squad having so far failed to make the most of the potential of the new E20.
Impressive pre-season form marked Lotus out as one to watch going into 2012, but the team finds itself down in fifth in the standings after the races in Australia and Malaysia, where a number of incidents have limited the number of points scored by Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Grosjean in particular has endured a tough start to the season where, despite qualifying inside the top six for both races, he has managed fewer race laps than anyone else.
Speaking ahead of next weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, Boullier admitted he felt mixed emotions at the way the season has started, with the pace of the car being one big positive but the points on the board being disappointing.
“Parts of the season have been satisfying,” he reflected. “They include the pace of the E20, which is clearly there in both qualifying and race trim. Both drivers have put in strong qualifying performances – Romain in Australia and Kimi in Malaysia. Kimi has shown that it's not taken him long to remember what's required of a Formula 1 driver and is right on the pace as shown in two strong races from where he's started on the grid. Also, our tyre degradation looks promising, as well as the car's reaction to set-up changes.
“As a counterpoint to this, parts of the season have been bad; Romain has only completed a handful of race laps; Kimi has started from further back on the grid than we wanted at both races for all sorts of reasons – bad timing from the team in Australia and the gearbox change in Malaysia. The upshot of this is we have only 16 points in the constructors' championship when we had potential for far more from the first two races.
“From a personal viewpoint, I do feel a bit of frustration that we haven't delivered as well as we should have done. We know we can do better, and we hope to prove that in the next races. On the other hand, I'm so proud of what the team has achieved this winter that I can't help but have a little smile on my face.”
Boullier added that he was pleased with the performance shown by both of his drivers as they make a return to the grid, and was hopeful that they could now help the team to push forwards in the upcoming races.
“Considering that both have come back from two years away from Formula 1, their performances have been strong,” he added. “Kimi has shown that he hasn't lost any pace. He is both quick in qualifying, and very consistent in the race. His tyre management, also, is quite impressive, while his technical feedback is extremely precise. He performed very well in the two races, with strong racecraft and setting the fastest race lap in Malaysia shows that he can deliver exactly as before. Romain has shown a good pace also. He just needs to get some race laps completed – his season starts in China.
“The positives we have give us a strong basis to score good points this season, and on the evidence so far we are well placed to fight for our target of fourth place in the constructors' championship. The aero package we're bringing to China is proof that we're leaving no stone unturned. We are focused on developing and improving the E20, while both drivers know their objectives and are working well with the team. We can put down many of the negative aspects of the first two races to bad luck, or factors which we will all learn from. We expect to be securing some more solid points in the near future, with both cars in the top eight.”