Team Lotus aiming to make point in Melbourne
Mike Gascoyne believes Hingham's Team Lotus are writing the book on how to build a Formula One team from scratch – and hopefully how to make it successful.
The next chapter involves taking their first points and Gascoyne feels Melbourne could be as good a chance as any to get them.
From being four seconds off the pace in 2010, Team Lotus' Norwich-born chief technical officer believes the new T128 is less than half that now – bringing it well within range of the grid's established teams.
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating – namely tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race – but Gascoyne is confident, both in the team's prospects and their position as role models for F1's more cost-conscious future.
'When you are really going racing rather than just turning up or racing in the second division, it gets more exciting and those first points are going to be great,' said Gascoyne.
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'It's a big thing for us and that event might only be a little away, so it is exciting. There is a real sense of achievement in what we have done but we've got to go on.
'The great news for F1 is a new team can come in and in 18 months, on a sensible budget, actually be a proper team.
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'It's almost like we can write you the book – this is how you do it, this is how much to spend, and if you put these things in place and do it sensibly and get the right people, you will be able to do it.
'That is good news because it had got to the stage where if you weren't spending �400m you were nowhere, and that was clearly unsustainable.
'I think if we can join the established teams and be competitive, that is great news for F1 for its long term survival.'
The much anticipated 2011 season starts in Melbourne with a host of changes that make predicting what will happen a tricky affair.
A new tyre supplier in the form of Pirelli, Kers and moveable rear wings to aid overtaking, as well as the prospect of a semi-street circuit all mean this weekend could be as good as any for those first points and a top 10 race finish.
'There are going to be a lot of pit stops, high tyre wear which Pirelli were told to aim at, it's going to mix it up and you've got to get the strategy calls right on the pit wall,' said Gascoyne.
'Last year I think we did pretty well when it rained and getting things like that right, so we see it on the pit wall as we'll be more involved and it's a real opportunity to get it right and nick a point.'
But even if it does not happen this weekend, Gascoyne is confident the pre-season testing numbers add up and Team Lotus will be where they want to be this season – competing with the likes of Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso.
'You look at the Barcelona test last year and then this year, and how much quicker and slower everyone has gone; average them out and see how we did,' said Gascoyne.
'Everyone is about a second slower this year, where we are 1.6 seconds quicker than we were. So that says you've moved 2.5 seconds closer to the pack. Really it's impossible to say, there are all sorts of variables, but if said we have got to be on the back of that midfield group and mixing it with them, I think all the evidence says we are.
'You look at it in these various different ways and they all add up to the same thing, but you are going to have to wait until Melbourne to see.
'We're clearly not where we were a year ago but if you look at the other new teams, they probably are. So we're very pleased with where we are – but there is a lot more to go.'
Gascoyne added: 'We want to target seventh or eight place, which means beating a couple of the established teams and that's clearly what we want to do. It's a big ask for an 18-month-old team, but that's the target and so we want to be scoring our first points and take a couple of scalps by the end of the year.'