Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lotus target future success

11 March 2010

Tony Fernandes is expecting a quiet Formula One season for Lotus, but has set his sights on future world championship glory.

The iconic Lotus name will return to the F1 grid for the first time in 16 years at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday after being revived by AirAsia founder Fernandes.

But the team principal predicts the Malaysian-backed team, fronted by drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, will need time to adjust before it can make an impact in the sport.


"I think we've already accomplished more than anyone could have dreamt," said Fernandes, whose team built the new T127 car from scratch in just five months.

"I firmly believe that if we continue on the growth path that we will be world champions one day without a doubt.

"We're not here to be second, we're here to win. But we have to be realistic, we're not going to win next year."

The original, and renowned, Team Lotus won six drivers championships and 73 races with pilots such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss.

But Fernandes insists his side, funded by a public-private partnership involving a host of Malaysian entrepreneurs, have done well to reach their current position in the face of such strong competition.

"To build 8,500 parts in five months and have a car that at the moment is four seconds off the pace is amazing when you think we're competing against teams that have been around for 70, 80 years," added Fernandes.

The candid tycoon refuses to be put off by cynical comments from other teams, namely Ferrari, criticising the sport's decision to allow the new teams onto the grid this season.


"It's good when people laugh at you because they don't take you seriously," he added.

"It doesn't bother me at all, because you all have to have beginnings."

Fernandes stressed that unlike other recent entrants such as Brawn, now Mercedes GP, and Force India, which were rebranded versions of established teams, Lotus Racing was built from nothing after winning its franchise last September.

He added: "We've got a much harder task. We have to do everything from scratch. Brawn, (which) everyone is raving about, is actually Honda. So our task is much, much larger."

By Rachel Griffiths

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