Mike Gascoyne regrets the fall of Williams in F1
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admits he is sad Team Lotus will have to aim at Williams if they are to climb the next rung of Formula One's ladder this season.
The Norwich-born engineer saw his Hingham team make significant strides over the most recent two rounds of the new campaign, in Malaysia and China.
And with Team Lotus desperate to beat some of F1 established teams in the second season on the track, it appears Frank Williams' former world champions are currently their closest targets after a terrible start to the calendar that only saw them record their first finishes of 2011 in Shanghai.
'It's the most significant 16th place I've ever achieved,' said Gascoyne of Heikki Kovalainen's classified finish in the Far East. 'We were genuinely racing. It's not that we've inherited something, we've raced and beaten the established teams on pace, and that's a really big step for the team.'
'Unfortunately, it's probably Williams (Team Lotus are targeting now). I say unfortunately because it's a great team and a great name, and you'd like to see them nearer the front.
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'So maybe I'm a bit of an old git and there's a bit of nostalgia there, but we're Team Lotus now and if we are racing Williams then that's good for us.'
The first three races of the season have made for fascinating viewing – and credit should be laid at the door of new tyre manufacturers Pirelli, as far as Gascoyne is concerned.
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'Normally you just go away and that's that, but I will sit down and watch the race again because what a race for Formula One,' Gascoyne told the BBC. 'Tribute to Pirelli with what they've done. They've taken a risk with these tyres, believing that tyre degradation would make for good racing, and Sunday's race proved it.'
However, despite a clear improvement from the Hingham factory, a deficit of around one second to the established teams in qualifying remains a big gap to bridge.
'We're clearly struggling for one lap pace when we have cool days and low track temperatures,' Gascoyne added. 'But we've always said from winter testing that our race pace is really good and we're very confident in it.
'It's just trying to understand these tyres because people clearly can get better one lap pace. In the race we were racing Pastor Maldonado (Williams) and we felt we had him from the first few laps, yet we qualified two seconds behind him. So these tyres are really difficult to get on top.'
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