Michael Bailey: Proof of the Team Lotus pudding will be in Barcelona updates

Plenty has been said and written about Team Lotus since the Hingham outfit first took to the grid last season. Most of it has surrounded when the Norfolk constructor can truly be considered a midfield runner – leaving fellow 2010 new boys Hispania and Virgin to their battles at the back.

The process has been relatively slow for those with either little patience or high expectations.

However, the noises coming out of Ironside Way point to a genuine leap in pace for Norfolk's yellow and green machine when the cars take to Barcelona this weekend.

Team Lotus will run with updates to the T128's floor, rear and exhaust system. It will see the respective parts brought close to the specification Red Bull created in the winter of 2009 – and the rest of the grid has used since last season. Those 18 months are the battle you face as a new team in F1.

Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen has already spoken of promising simulator results, while straight line testing at Duxford last month apparently backed up those hopes.


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All that is left is the real test in Spain – and while the rest of the field traditionally brings updates aplenty to this circuit, few in the midfield are expected to have such radical developments to their car.

Team Lotus clearly have the most to gain – now the question is finding out whether they have achieved it or not.

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'We were two seconds off the midfield group all of last season and now we've moved up very close to them, and we want to move into that group and start out-qualifying them,' said chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne.

'We have been out-racing some of them and we want to do that a bit more regularly. If we can do that, let's start scoring some points.'

Qualifying has seen Team Lotus make Q2 just twice – both last season when rain played havoc. Doing so on merit is the target. From there, the T128's gentle tyre wear and already competitive race pace could certainly see them challenge.

It may take a race or two for the team to make the most of the updates, be it Monaco a week later or Canada in June.

Indeed, a high grid start around a Monaco circuit virtually impossible to overtake at, plus two experienced drivers – one a winner around Monte Carlo's famous streets – backs up why some at Hingham are eyeing Monaco as a great chance to break their scoring duck.

'Points establish you as a proper team,' added Gascoyne. 'That means racing to score points every time. It's like a driver getting his first win, it's a monkey off your back. It's just one of a series of steps…but it's an important part of the process and a good thing for everyone to aim at.'

If a car is quick at Barcelona, it will be quick anywhere – so the saying goes.

And while it has been written before many times, you can hear the change at Team Lotus from talking about aims to possibly delivering on ambitions – let's hope we get to see it.

• There is something a little different when the Formula One circus arrives in Barcelona each year – although that is primarily because everything is so familiar.

The Circuit de Catalunya is a home from home for most of the teams, drivers and staff. The track has been on the calendar since 1991 and also hosts numerous tests – meaning even the likes of an F1 rookie, such as Paul di Resta, can claim to know every bump, dip and curb of the 4.655km Spanish asphalt.

'I probably know Barcelona better than any other track on the calendar,' said the impressive Scot. 'I already feel quite well prepared.

'In fact, it's a track that all the drivers know like the back of their hand and the teams have so much data already.'

The 25-year-old would have probably seen that familiarity as a huge bonus before the season started – given the number of new tracks ahead of him.

However, the West Lothian racer and last season's Deutsche Tourenwagon Masters (DTM) champion has done just fine in his first F1 campaign to date – so do not bet against him turning up the pressure on his Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil this weekend at a track he knows.

• Maybe this would have been of more use during the quieter races of past seasons, rather than 2011's overtaking fest.

Still, should you fancy adding to your grand prix watching-experience, how about playing the Nick Heidfield Challenge?

No question David Coulthard's move to the BBC's commentary box alongside Martin Brundle has been a grand success so far this season.

However, it seems remarkable the former McLaren race winner has an Achilles heel: he just cannot get to grips with one particular name on the grid – stranger still, it is one of his former team-mates.

Renault's Nick Heidfeld probably deserves better – but that should not stop us all having fun.

So why not sort out a sweepstake with your friends before qualifying and the race in Barcelona, and then sit back and see how many times Coulthard brings out 'the Heidfield'.

For the record, I would go for three… plus two put downs from Brundle in response.

• Not wishing to turn this column into an advert for the BBC, but if you missed Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections programme on Sunday, it is well worth catching up on.

It looks into the design of an F1 car and features the work at Team Lotus' Hingham factory. Even two of my sportsdesk colleagues found it interesting, so it's not just me.

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