Romain Grosjean has said that Lotus will not shy away from chasing a return to the top step of the podium, but insists that the team has to remain realistic when evaluating its potential.
Ambitions have been raised within the Enstone camp following the 2-3 result that Kimi Raikkonen and Grosjean secured behind world champion Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain, and the subsequent pace-setting runs during the Mugello group test, but the Frenchman, who returns for a second bite at F1 in 2012, admits that he will focus instead on racking up the best finish he can between now and the end of the season.
"When you start a career in F1, first you think about points, then maybe the top five and then a podium, a win and a championship," the reigning GP2 champion explained to 422race.com
, "I got the points, then the podium and the top five at the same time! I think you have to be realistic: if we have the car to win the race, for sure
we'll go for the win; if it's not the case, then you have to take what you can and score as many points you can, for the team and for the championship."
While some observers suggested that either Lotus could have won in Bahrain had it not been for 'strategy mistakes', Grosjean claimed that filling out the podium behind the man who had started on pole - and doing so from around the fringes of the top ten on the grid - hardly hinted at errors on the team's behalf.
"Strategy mistakes? I don't know where you see that," he questioned, "We finished second with Kimi and third with me, starting seventh. Where is the mistake? Everybody was conservative due to what happened in Shanghai and, if we had pitted earlier, Sebastian would have done that too and it would have been the same. Sebastian started from pole position, and had a fantastic pace, but we had [a good race] as well. We have to go better in qualifying and then we can fight for a win."
Having established the Lotus E20 as a frontrunner, Grosjean and Raikkonen will hope that the Enstone team can continue to develop its machine throughout the season to keep pace with the likes of McLaren and Red Bull. Although the Finn skipped the Mugello test, Grosjean twice topped the times as Lotus ran through a series of development parts.
"We tested plenty of things that we wanted to test since the first race but didn't have the chance to do," the Frenchman noted, "There we could do it, even if it takes some time to do what we want. I think there are a few interesting things that we can put [on the car] for Barcelona, and the next few races of the season, to improve our performance.
"That's going to be clearly crucial, as development is going to be the key this year. We saw in China eleven cars in three-tenths. If you gain one tenth by developing the car, it's already maybe five places. We're trying to get everything we can from the car, there will be some updates coming and that's nice."
As always, what appears in Barcelona will only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploiting the full potential of the E20 and Grosjean is optimistic that the team will continue to develop the machine to the end.
"We are focused on our team, trying to get the best [out of ourselves]," he noted, "On race pace, we have a very good car and we have been always at the front. There are areas where we can improve and we are trying to do that. We are working very hard at the factory and, on track, everybody is pushing very hard to get the best out of the E20. For sure, we are maybe missing a big break in the slow corners to be more competitive in the championship, but it's always good to have a car which is able to fight at the front again."