Lotus probably won't be able to compete at the level its wants until May, when the circus returns to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix, technical director, Nick Chester has admitted.

His comments come in the countdown to the back-to-back races in Malaysia and Bahrain and in the wake of a tough weekend in Australia, scene of the opening round in the 2014 F1 World Championship, in which Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado both failed to finish.

"It is difficult to make a strong prediction after the weekend we have just had in Australia, especially with the limited mileage under our belt," he said, when asked when the team will be able to make 'significant' progress and be back challenging at the front. "I'm certainly hoping for an improvement for Malaysia though, and then some more in Bahrain, although as they are back to back it is likely to be small steps. It may well be Barcelona before we are in a more stable position and competing at the level we want to be at."

"One thing's for certain, however," he added, "we're not sitting back; we're pushing all the way with the focus on extracting the maximum from the E22."

"From what we have seen on the chassis in terms of measurements, particularly on the aero side, it still looks very strong," he continued. "There is nothing fundamental on the car that will stop it being competitive but we need to get to a sufficient level of mapping and operating the car so that the drivers can extract the maximum from the E22.

"There are clear, identifiable areas where we can find big chunks of time. Once we have more mileage under our belt and worked on the balance of the car then the drivers will feel more comfortable and we will make good progress."

Despite that, however, Chester said Australia was clearly a disappointment: "It was very frustrating. Everyone in the team worked really hard for Melbourne. In my fourteen years at Enstone I cannot remember a more intense period of work and for there to be no tangible reward for it is tough to take but we knew that this would likely be the case," he noted.

"It was disappointing that we were not quicker and that we were unable to attain a truly representative position on the grid. Everyone understood that there are so many new parts and so much new technology for 2014, so we knew that it was going to be difficult for everything to work straight away and achieve a positive result. We are now addressing these issues one by one and making clear, quantifiable progress."

"There are several issues we have pinpointed in Australia that we will be working on; some on the chassis and some on the power unit. I know that Renault Sport F1 are working very hard to fix issues on the software and also some on the mapping. The E22 is much more complicated in terms of how you operate the power unit and how it interacts with other systems on the car. This is something we need to improve on; and there is a lot of time to be found in this area," he explained.

So will the current difficulties have an impact on the development programme?

Chester is adamant it won't have an effect: "It makes no real difference. We are still producing new bodywork and have some good upgrades coming for Malaysia in all areas around the car. We will keep pushing as hard as we can with the upgrade programme," he vowed.

"We know that there is good potential with the E22 and we [just] need to get the whole package operating properly," he concluded.



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