Lotus sign up Trulli and Kovalainen

Team principal Fernandes says constructor will be envy of F1 after securing drivers
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes believes envious eyes are being cast in the direction of his team following yesterday's announcement of their driver line-up for 2010. The Malaysia-backed marque will have Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli in the cockpit of their cars as Lotus returns to Formula One for the first time since 1994.

As one of four new teams on the grid for next season, Fernandes admitted he was pinching himself at being able to lure two drivers of such calibre. "We have not even finished our first race car, so to attract two race-winning drivers to the team is a huge achievement and honour," he said.

"I think it is a testament to our ambition and long-term vision we have such talent on our books in year one. It is further proof we are serious about what we do, and I am sure the other new teams are looking at us with some envy right now."

Given the fledgling nature of the team, the CEO of AirAsia insists there will be no undue pressure placed on Kovalainen and Trulli to immediately score results and points. Asked of his expectations, Fernandes said: "It is more a question of what we all expect from each other rather than just from the drivers. Next season will be the first for Lotus F1 Racing and we have a lot to achieve in a short space of time.

"As with any new venture, it is a case of 'all hands on deck'. Everybody has a vital role to play, but it is about bringing a team together and gelling.

"The drivers each bring different experience to the team and I think the combination of their skills will help us quickly establish ourselves as the ones to watch in 2010 and beyond."

Kovalainen, who has spent the last two years in the shadow of Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, is under no illusion as to the difficulties he and Trulli will likely face at a debut team. The Finn, who has one race victory in Hungary and one pole position to his name, said: "I always race to win and I will do everything as if I was preparing to put the car on pole.

"But of course we have to be realistic and keep the focus on developing the team to a state where we can operate like any other current top F1 team. It will not be easy and we will have tough times at the beginning, there's no question about it. But as long as we keep improving all the way through the year and have earned the respect of the other top teams on the grid, then we can be pleased about the first year."

Trulli, a veteran of 219 grands prix, also appreciates a degree of realism, but the 35-year-old Italian sees no reason why Lotus cannot be pushing for points towards the end of the year.

"We are one of the new teams, so we have to prove ourselves and to gain respect in the paddock," said Trulli. "We have to establish ourselves as the best of the new teams and see what gap we have between us and the rest. Only then will we really understand what gains we need to make during the season."