Romain Grosjean has warned the F1 midfield to expect more from Lotus in the coming weeks as the Enstone team continues to develop its E22 after a difficult start to the 2014 F1 campaign.
The Frenchman's decision to remain with the team has yet to be rewarded, as he remains scoreless after the four 'flyaway' races that opened the season. Australia aside, he has not been that far away from the points, with finishes of eleventh and twelfth in Malaysia and Bahrain, before a sharp upturn in form saw him qualify and race inside the top ten before a gearbox-related DNF sidelined him in China last time out.
“The gearbox problem was obviously a big disappointment, but the overall picture for the whole weekend was 90 per cent positive,” Grosjean insisted as he looked forward to next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, “We didn't get a reward at the end, but we know we made a step in the right direction with the car.
“Before the problem in the race, we were the second Renault[-powered] team, in front of the McLarens and fighting with Force India. That was positive. I think [the car] is getting there, [although] it is still not as good as we believe it can be. The aim in Barcelona is to keep improving, but we know we have a decent platform to work from and solve the remaining issues.”
With world champions Red Bull showing its own signs of recovery after a difficult start to the year, Lotus is unlikely to become the best Renault team after the three-week break that followed the Shanghai round, but Grosjean is happy to see the squad making steady progress.
“Power unit-wise we are not yet equal to the best and, from our side, we are still behind the top Renault team,” he noted, “On paper, we made a big relative improvement in China, but it wasn't just one thing. On the exterior, the car looks the same but we had a number of mechanical upgrades [in China] and also improvements that came from Renault Sport F1. Also, we continue to learn and understand the E22 and how to exploit areas we can continue to improve on.
“We took the Renault updates and our own updates as well and moved forward. Altogether we made a big step, even though there were no massive changes on the car - we're just trying to make everything work together better [and] there is more to come for Barcelona.”
Returning to Europe allows the teams to bring the first major upgrades to their cars, and Grosjean is hoping that the next step in the evolution of the E22 will bring more good memories from the Circuit de Catalunya.
“Barcelona means the start of the European season and means we can travel less - which is good because I've now seen every single movie on the plane!” he joked, “I'm happy to be back in Barcelona and I have some good memories - it's a track where I finished fourth back in 2012.
“It is a circuit everyone knows well, and it's easier for the engineers to bring new parts to the track, so we go to Barcelona intent on getting much more performance from the car. We are concentrating on this goal. We just have to push as hard as we can and stay as positive as possible even when the going gets tough.”