Encouraged by the initial performance of the new E21, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier says that ensuring the car is bullet-proof will be one of the main themes of the second pre-season test in Barcelona.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean took turns to top the timesheets at Jerez last week, boosting the belief that Lotus may be able to take on the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari from the first race in Australia, but Boullier is experienced enough to know not to trust the pre-season stopwatch and press ahead with the team's programme over the next two sessions at the Circuit de Catalunya before packing up and heading for Melbourne next month.
“Of course, lap times are not representative of the order at this early stage of the season, but to be at the front of the pack without deliberately setting out to do so is always a plus,” he admitted to the team's official website, “It doesn't mean we will be world champions, but we know the car works well and that's a big credit to everyone involved.
“The feedback from the drivers after their first few laps is always very important - if you see them step out with a smile on their face you know the baseline of the car should be good and it was pleasing to see that from both Kimi and Romain. On top of that, we managed to complete some decent mileage which is always encouraging when you bring a brand new car to the track for the first time.”
After the gremlins that saw Lotus having to withdraw from the second test last season [ see separate story
], Boullier knows that nothing can be taken for granted, and has already targeted reliability over performance in Barcelona.
“One of the main priorities now is to ensure that the reliability of the car matches up to the demands of the season ahead,” he confirmed, “Barcelona is much more similar to the kind of format we will see throughout the year, so the information we gather here will be more relevant to our requirements at the different circuits on the calendar.”
The reliability work will go hand in hand with continued assessment of the latest Pirelli tyres, with the added incentive of now knowing which compounds will be provided at each of the opening four rounds.
“At this time, we effectively have two main groups operating within the team,” Boullier revealed, “There are those who are travelling to the tests, reporting on progress from the track and getting a better understanding of the car for the first race, then there are those back at the factory who are working very hard to build not just one, but four cars ready for Melbourne.
“What gives me the most satisfaction is to see everyone pulling together towards achieving our goals. Walking around the factory, I'm very proud to see the level of commitment that everyone brings to what we do. It's great to be working with such a dedicated group of people and to have seen their efforts rewarded with some good results last year. I hope we will be seeing even more of that when the season starts next month.”