The Lotus F1 team might be some way off their form of 2013, but having one of their cars last the full race distance in the gruelling tropical conditions in Malaysia represents a giant leap forward for the squad.

"Eleventh place is good for all the guys at Enstone and at the track, and it's good for me too," said Romain Grosjean, who made it to the chequered flag in 11th place in the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

"Finishing the race was our first objective and then we wanted to see where we were with our car," he continued. "It's not perfect yet but it's good to be where we are at this stage.

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"I had a big loss of downforce around eight laps to the end especially in the rear of the car which made things difficult, especially when I had to defend," he added, having managed to keep Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen behind him to the finish line. "I kept remembering our past battles to make sure Kimi couldn't go through!

"Without that issue, I'm sure we could have finished higher," he insisted. "It's good to be back and close to the points so it's a positive for all of us. It was a good battle at the end."

"Romain drove a great race to be in with a shout of points and finish the team's first race of 2014," said Federico Gastaldi, Lotus F1's deputy team principal. "That he was able to defend his position for the last eight laps despite his rear diffuser not working properly shows his determination. This determination is shared by the entire team as we now look to extract more performance from the E22."

Unfortunately Grosjean's relative good fortune was not shared by his team mate Pastor Maldonado, who retired on lap 7 after being involved in a collision with Marussia's Jules Bianchi, although the actual reason for the end to his day was engine-related.

"After the start we were losing a lot of power so we'll have to investigate later to see what the issue is and analyse the data," said Maldonado. "This problem meant I had to retire in order to protect the engine. Despite that, this weekend has been clearly a step forwards."

"Today was a big step forwards from Melbourne, and every time we run the car we can see we are making progress," agreed Alan Permane, the team's trackside operations director. "Pastor had a problem with the intake to the turbo, which was evident from the start of his race. Unfortunately, as well as limiting performance it was potentially damaging to the engine so we had to make the difficult decision to retire him.

"Overall, we're optimistic that we can improve further next weekend in Bahrain," he added.