The new incarnation of the Lotus team is in the spotlight in Malaysia this weekend as it races in its owners' and main backers' homeland for the first time.
AUTOSPORT spoke to technical director Mike Gascoyne about the team's progress.
Q. This is a big weekend for Lotus, and it seems it's been your best weekend so far - have you stepped up to the challenge?
Mike Gascoyne: I think we've sort of been reliable over the first two races, but always by the skin of our teeth. But we knew what the problems were, we identified them and we put a plaster on them. Here, we have really got on top of them, and the whole team took a step forward.
On Friday here, the cars ran well - we ran Fairuz Fauzy, which was great for him at his home grand prix. And we were a real proper competent F1 team, and it is starting to show in the level of performance.
Q. Jarno Trulli said earlier this weekend that now is the time to start shifting attention away from worrying about the new teams and instead focus on catching up the established ones. Would you agree?
MG: I think Tony [Fernandes] actually said that as far back as Bahrain, but I think that is actually very true of our focus - in that we now have to look forward. We have to close the gap down. It is a big gap at the moment, but we have got a lot coming on. So Jarno said exactly the right thing - and now is the time to start closing the gap down to those in front.
Q. You ran a shark-fin engine cover here this weekend, which is a sign that performance steps are now coming on the car?
MG: We've had new diffusers today on both cars, and quite a lot of things come through. The shark fin engine cover is a development that we will do some back-to-back testing on. We always said that the big updates will be for Barcelona - and they still will be. But now it is not just looking like Barcelona, it is over the next two or three races after that. There is so much stuff coming through that we cannot physically make it in time. We are very, very happy with where we are.
Q. Is the rate of progress you are seeing greater than ever you imagined?
MG: No. You know the compromises that you have to make, and then when you make those compromises - to get yourself to not just Bahrain but to the first four races with enough bits. So you are always going to plateau for those first events.
I am surprised that we've got the bits on each race as we have done, because we've taken several kilos out of the car. We've put two or three tenths on over the last couple of races - which I didn't really expect. It was all aimed at Barcelona. When you aim for that, you don't have the step, you are just saying that you will be there - so it is slightly heart in mouth.
Everyone expects but you actually have to start delivering it, but it has come and it is continuing to come which is good. It means the gap will close and close and close.
Q. What's been the secret to Lotus getting it so right and the other new teams facing some dramas?
MG: I would love to say Mike Gascoyne! But seriously, I think it is experienced people. Experienced people being able to put together a team. They are people that I have worked with before. You know they work the right way, you know they work as a team together. So it is a case of putting them together and showing them how well they can do. It is not about me - people like Dieter Gass coming on board, Keith Saunt as COO back at the factory. Everyone is stepping up to the plate and delivering.
One of the things we are really pleased about is the positive feedback we are getting from everyone - we should be here, we deserve to be here and the Lotus name is back. It is going to start delivering and do what it should do - and that is hopefully the message we are proving at the moment. We still have a long way to go, but we are not sitting here saying we've done it. We know exactly how far it is to go and how hard it is and all of that, but we are on the road and off we go.
Q. Do you think you are in the position to be ready to grab a point if circumstances are right?
MG: Yes. For sure we need cars to trip up, but that gap is going to close a lot. I want by mid-season that we may not need that many to drop out - because you are racing around in a good position. So you are not sitting there in 17th/18th hoping that four or five cars are going out, you are racing 13th to 17th and you only need one or two. If you get that right and only one or two drop out then that is next step where we need to be.
Q. And what about the personal satisfaction for you, having been there from day one?
MG: I think it is a very special thing. To have done it with Silvi my partner. We were there working on it well before the entry. So when I think back to day one when I was asked to start on the project - sitting in my study on my own doing lists and you are now here running a racing team it is something deeply satisfying.