Lotus target mid-division after solid first season

By Alastair Himmer KUALA LUMPUR, Reuters

Malaysian-owned Team Lotus hope to build on a successful first season in the Formula One fold and are confident the new Renault-powered cars can move up the field to compete with the mid-division teams. Technical director Mike Gascoyne fully expects Lotus to make a drastic improvement after finishing 2010 as the best of the newcomers on the F1 grid after reaching the goals set ahead of the team’s rookie campaign. “The target last season was to be the best of the three new teams,” he told Wednesday’s Malaysian Star newspaper. “But the real task was building the team behind the cars. Last season was all about putting experienced people in place so that we can build a better car for the coming season. “I don’t think we did badly last season, given that we had a limited time of five months to come out with a car on the grid. “But the target next season is to finish in the midfield, amongst the Toro Rosso, Williams and Force India.” With a new Renault engine and Red Bull-supplied gearboxes and hydraulic systems for 2011, Team Lotus’s stakeholders have targeted a top-eight finish for next season. “The engine and gearbox aren’t going to make you any quicker just like that. We can’t be saying that we will now be challenging (constructor’s champions) Red Bull just because we have the same engine-gearbox set-up. “If you look back to a year ago, we’ve probably done a few hundred hours of wind-tunnel testing for the car,” added Gascoyne, who signed a five-year deal in September to keep him at Lotus until at least 2015. “But today, we have done more than a thousand hours of testing, which means we’re in a better position than last season.”

However, Gascoyne warned against making unrealistic goals about potential podiums finishes or race victories.

“It will probably take three to five years before a new team like ours can be seen holding a trophy and definitely not next year when the season starts in Bahrain in March,” he said.

“We are in F1 to win races. If that’s not your dream, don’t even bother doing it. Winning races has to be your aspiration,” said Gascoyne, who has been technical director at several F1 teams including Renault and Toyota.

“The step we’re making next season is much bigger than when we started last season. We have to start picking up points on a regular basis.

“We can’t be complacent after achieving last year’s target and say ‘Oh we’ve done it’ and pat each other on the back.

“We have to aim higher and do everything differently from last year if we want to reach the peak.”