The Lotus name returns to Formula 1 racing this weekend, for the first time in 16 years.
Jarno Trulli will be one of the men carrying the eight of the name over his shoulders if what is likely to be a difficult weekend for the team.
AUTOSPORT heard from the Italian driver on Thursday.
Q. You're about to become a Lotus grand prix driver. That must feel pretty special?
Jarno Trulli: It is special given the heritage of the brand. It also gives me a responsibility because we are all responsible for this brand, we all know where it was and we all know what the target is. We cannot imagine keeping this brand where we will be this week, and we will need to push it to the top. I know it's not going to be easy, especially for the first five or six races as we will be four seconds off.
Given the limited time that they had to design the car and to get it on the track, the guys back at the factory have done a great job. Obviously they had to make some compromises on the weight, on the general car performance and technically but at least we got it running pretty reliably and put a lot of mileage on it in testing. So far, we have achieved great things.
Q. Do you expect to finish the race, or do you hope to finish the race?
JT: We are expecting to finish the race. But in Formula 1 even top teams can stop because of little gremlins and a team like ours has more chance to stop especially as at the moment we haven't had the chance to design every little bit on the car. This is our biggest issue. We are looking to change it, but at the moment the team is not running fully in every area. We are working on many things, but we have to take things step by step.
Q. Do you really feel like you are at Lotus?
JT: Yes. You can breath the air of Lotus. It will be hard at the beginning, but the intention of everyone behind this project is to take Lotus back to where it belongs and it will take some time. But we are serious about it. Look at the team - they are all professional people, all experienced people and they all know what it takes. They are not young or new people. It's just a matter of time.
Q. Do you personally have more responsibility for and input into the direction of the team?
JT: What I have noticed from now compared to the big teams is that in the big teams you have got all kinds of resources. Once you get that, you have everything ready and all the driver has to do is to drive the car, give some input and hope that someone comes with some new bits which make your performance turn around. Here, there are limited resources and the driver has a big influence on the technical direction of the car.
They are obviously keen on listening to the driver and are desperate to get the direction as quickly as possible without really having all of the data. They have already seen it during our running. I jump in the car, say this is right, this is wrong and then in one day we gain a second. It is kind of satisfying to work in this way. There is more human input in this team compared to the big teams. Obviously we are still a long way off, and in order to catch them up it will take some time. But it is satisfying for a driver to have more input, even though it is not satisfying being four seconds off.
Q. Last year in Bahrain you were on pole position and slipped to third in the race. Have you thought about that this year?
JT: I thought about it while I was driving here this morning. I was driving in and I said to myself 'last year I was on pole and this year I will be at the back'. What can you say? Things change and unfortunately it has happened to me again that while I was taking the team to the top, it suddenly decided to pull off and you have to start from scratch and do it again.
It will be sad to see myself at the back of the grid when last year I was on pole, but that's life and you can't change it. It can happen to everyone else. If Ferrari decided to pull the plug you would have Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa looking for a drive and searching for a team to give them another chance.
Q. Could you be happier with the result here this year than you were finishing third last year?
JT: I'm the kind of person who is never happy enough, but I always fix my target. Last year, my target here was to win the race and I didn't. We didn't get the strategy right so it was very disappointing. This year, I may set the target that to finish the race would be enough, and maybe I could finish the race far in front of the next new team car and I would be happy.
I always have to look at my performance, and not the general result. My performance last year was good, but not because of the result. It's always difficult to say how happy you are. Taking Lotus back on track after 16 years is something important. It's not a new team. It's a new structure that is targeting the top.
Q. Given the pace of the car, is there anything you can do strategically to get ahead of any of the established teams?
JT: No. We will be four seconds off the top, and we will be three seconds off the last car from the top group which is too much. The aim is to finish the race with both cars and to get experience.
Q. And to do that carrying the Lotus badge is a bonus?
JT: I'm really proud, but I am also old enough to understand that I am responsible. I cannot leave the team where it is now, I want to bring it back to where it belongs. I don't want to ruin the name and the heritage of Lotus, because Lotus can only be second to Ferrari - not to anyone else in the paddock.