Michael Bailey: Patience will be a Hingham virtue for Team Lotus

Sunday's dash round the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix will make it 10 rounds from 19 for the season, which – and I'm sure you are ahead of me on this one – takes 2011 past its halfway mark.

By now, the grand plan down Hingham way should have been bearing fruit. Eighth in the constructors' championship was the pre-season aim. Taking the team's first points was just a matter of time. Racing with the established midfield pack a fortnightly expectation.

Yet, going into back-to-back races – Hungary arrives next weekend – before August's midseason break, and the vast goodwill and hope has not been enough to power Team Lotus any quicker around the last nine tracks.

Having spoken to chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne in March, he saw tangible progression from winter testing – although readily acknowledged testing is a dark art, let alone making predictions from it.

Yet, in truth, Force India have probably been a little quicker than most thought. Toro Rosso have improved more than some expected. And as for Sauber, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez are doing brilliant jobs in a decently quick car. So just like when they took to the grid after only five months' notice for their 2010 debut, Team Lotus are playing catch-up. Maybe the fact they continue to close the gap quicker than fellow 2010 new boys Hispania and Virgin is, in itself, a significant achievement.

Finnish driver and de facto team leader Heikki Kovalainen is an astute guy. Never has a man looked so at ease in a team – meaning he was still happy to admit this week those early season predictions were wide of the mark.

'I think the targets were too optimistic,' Kovalainen told the excellent manipef1.com blog. 'With the tools we have at the moment, we can't expect to be fighting with the middle of the pack or teams like Renault or Mercedes.

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'We are not there this year, we clearly do not have the structure in place yet to be able to do that. The targets were too optimistic but I've not worried about that too much.'

The agreement to use Williams' wind tunnel from this autumn should help with that structure – at least until their own wind tunnel at Hingham is up and running in 2012.

Another thing clearly not helping Team Lotus' case is the lack of Kers – the turbo boost button powered by brake energy stored up during a lap in an on-board battery.

The unit was deemed too expensive to install during the winter – probably a sensible idea given even last season's constructors' champions Red Bull struggled with it for eight rounds.

However, apparently team principal Tony Fernandes has agreed a deal with Red Bull Racing to use their Kers unit 'from 2011 and beyond' – although it would seem unlikely the system could be integrated quickly into the T128.

Still, when it does come along it will be another piece of the jigsaw.

At this point it is worth remembering it took Red Bull seven seasons – having bought out an existing team – and F1's greatest designer in Adrian Newey to win titles. Team Lotus are only 18 months down the line so maybe, in reality, staying ahead of Virgin and Hispania is where their aims should have always laid.

Well… at least until the next winter.

• Arguably the most frustrating thing this season has been wondering exactly what Robert Kubica would have done in the Group Lotus-backed Renault.

The Pole's rally accident just weeks before the start of the calendar was a desperate time for the Oxford team and for Formula One fans.

And while the R31's pace has tailed off as the season has gone on, the desire to improve would almost certainly have been greater had a genuine title contender been at the wheel.

In the end, Kubica's injuries were so bad there were reasonably question marks over whether he would ever compete in F1 again.

Thankfully, the popular Renault driver feels confident he will return sooner rather than later.

And let's not forget, simply returning to action will be some achievement considering the terrible injuries Kubica suffered to his hand, arm, legs and back.

Asked during a question and answer session this week if he would be ready for the 2012 grid and could fight for the championship, Kubica said: 'Yes to the first question. For your second question, we will have to wait until the first test in 2012.

'Mentally, I have no problem at all. Physically, I am still a bit weak but my general condition is quite good. My weight has now returned to its normal level and for a few weeks I've been able to walk without help. All in all I feel pretty well.

'I am satisfied with how things are proceeding. The improvement is in line with the expectations and luckily there are no complications that could affect the recovery time.

'It is still too early to have a clear picture for the timing of my return but the important thing is the final outcome.'

It may be Kubica gets to take his seat for the season final� in Brazil at the end of November. It may be the wait continues until 2012.

Either way, it will be great to have him back.

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