Michael Bailey: All smiles and promise at Team Lotus’ big Duxford day

Anyone lucky enough to make the trip to Team Lotus' open day at Duxford last week will almost certainly tell you what a cracking day out it was for any Formula One fan.

The atmosphere was friendly and convivial for the public, while there was plenty of buzz for the significant media present to digest Team Lotus' intriguing purchase of the small Dartford sports car manufacturer Caterham.

There was a pen full of the famous Caterham Sevens, solely for the enjoyment of the waiting public – who were given an exhilarating lap of tight twisting corners to drool over as the Colin Chapman-engineered racers displayed their tendency to bring out a smile in those within sniffing distance.

But the undoubted star of the show was the very purpose of the day – the team's 2011 F1 charger, the T128.

Who would have thought something so seemingly monotonous would be so enthralling.


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The backwards and forwards rhythm of seeing a Formula One car take on an airfield's runway should not really hold the attention.

But for the hundreds of fans who made the trip to the air museum last Wednesday the buzzing, waspy sound of the car's revs and the sheer slicing through the air was a thing of beauty – and a sight normally impossible to see for free.

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Most Formula One teams put on a similar outing for their fans – but credit to the Hingham outfit for doing so close enough to its Norfolk base to bring out the locals.

The T128s of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen are in Istanbul as we speak for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix; a return to action after three weeks' 'rest' – although you doubt anyone in the F1 world actually got a break.

However, maybe the most pertinent feeling from Duxford was aimed at the following round a fortnight later, in Barcelona.

For that race, Team Lotus are bringing a big update to their car. One tested in Cambridgeshire and one they feel will bring them fully among their midfield rivals – and pick up their first points since arriving on the grip last season.

'The simulation is saying to us it's delivering us a big chunk of lap time, and at the moment there is no reason to believe why it wouldn't,' Kovalainen told me at Duxford.

'So far the simulation has been accurate, but time will tell in Barcelona whether it is actually true or not.'

Team principal Tony Fernandes added: 'We are competing against guys who have been there for 30 years, but the team smell big steps of improvement. They smell points.'

Judging by Duxford, there are fans aplenty who hope they arrive soon.

• While most at Team Lotus tend to beam their way through the days, veteran driver Jarno Trulli does not always follow suit. I'm assured the Italian is enjoying himself – but maybe solving his power steering issues will help.

'It's a completely different story to last year, so obviously it will be better this season once we can fix the small problems we have,' said Trulli, above, at Duxford. 'I think it's going to be very exciting.'

So Trulli is fine – maybe he's just waiting for those first points before he shows it.

• Given Fernando Alonso's poor start to 2011 in his Ferrari, he should probably pop down to Williams and thank them for taking the attention away.

F1 fans of a certain age will all have been drawn to Frank Williams' legendary team, one where the likes of British racing heroes Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill enjoyed enthralling success at the wheel.

But those days are long time ago now; not helped by the 2011's FW33, which you have to assume lacks pace – because the reliability is even worse.

Both the experienced Rubens Barrichello and disappointing rookie Pastor Maldonado failed to finish the opening two races, equalling the team's poorest start to any season in its 25-year history.

And heads have rolled for it, with young technical director Sam Michael – one time considered the darling of the team – and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson resigning with effect from the end of the current season.

All of which is a sad indictment of the current situation at the Grove outfit – although both departures have been labelled scapegoats by plenty in the know.

Team principal Frank Williams said: 'Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over 10 and five years respectively. Nonetheless, they have recognised our performance is not at the level it needs to be.

'Both will continue to work in their present positions through until the end of the year to ensure the team maintains focus and momentum during the 2011 season. We are very grateful to Sam and to Jon for their professional approach.'

And a professional approach it will have to be, given there are still at least 16 races remaining.

Mike Coughlan will be Williams' new chief engineer – fresh from his two-year 'Spygate' ban for being caught in possession Ferrari documents while at McLaren. So the fun looks like continuing then…

• Istanbul this weekend will have to be something special to live up to what happened last season.

The sight of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's clashing Red Bulls was the iconic image of 2010, along with the German's less than kind gestures to his team-mate soon after.

Throw in the fantastic turn eight – with its triple apex – and the circuit should really be safe on the F1 calendar. But that simply is not the case – to the point where this weekend's race could be the last at the track for some time.

While China finally filled the Shanghai stands thanks to a bit of ticketing common sense, Istanbul has never managed to do likewise.

And however good this year's race is, it may be too late for that attitude to change.

What will be fascinating is whether Red Bull have sorted out their Kers problems, and whether McLaren's resurgence is something set to continue. Here's hoping.

After three rounds of supreme entertainment, it's time for a fourth.

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