Kovalainen: Lotus can be successful in three years
Heikki Kovalainen has claimed that Lotus could become 'a very professional and successful team' within a relatively short time, having thrown his lot in with the Malaysian-backed operation after being ousted from McLaren.
The Finn will line up alongside F1 veteran Jarno Trulli as Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne attempt to return the famous Lotus name to the top flight, and is clearly excited by what he has seen, both at the launch and at the Hingham facility in Norfolk which he has visited regularly since inking his deal before Christmas.
At the unveiling of the new T127 in London, Kovalainen spoke of his faith in both Air Asia boss Fernandes, who will guide the team into its maiden season, and the work that has already been completed, both on the car and preparations for 2010.
"The money will be there to get the team going, and we can build a reasonably sized team - I think eventually when everybody is on we are going to have 260 people, which is around the size of Sauber," he pointed out, "And then we have the facility at Hingham that is not quite ready yet but, eventually, will be able to design and produce parts which, for me, was a message that we could make decent progress during the year.
"Those two things were major points. And then, obviously, Mike being at the head of the technical team was the third important point that I based my decision [to join Lotus] on. So far, there are no regrets. This team has a lot of potential to become a very professional and successful team, even in the medium term. I think we can achieve some decent results in three years."
Kovalainen, who has just one win from three seasons with Renault and McLaren, was also impressed with the first run of the T127, carried out by Malaysian test driver Fairuz Fauzy ahead of the launch.
"I think it looks very cool," he said of the green-and-yellow historically-hued machine, "I think the whole visual side looks really good and, from what I've been following at the factory and talking to the mechanics, the quality of the build and design has also been very good, so that all looks positive.
"The shakedown that we did early this week all went pretty well. We had just some small problems, nothing major, so fingers crossed that it's all going to be fine at Jerez. As for the performance, we don't really know yet - we will have to see."
Like team-mate Trulli, the Finn claims to have had several offers to remain in F1, but says he opted for Lotus as much for the people involved as he did for the chance it represented to be on the grid in 2010.
"Obviously, I had different options at the end of last year - and some of those were with more established teams - but, in the end, I made this decision because I saw the most potential in this project," he explained, "Talking to Tony and Mike convinced me. Only the future will tell whether it was a good or bad decision, but so far I have no regrets and, so far, it has been better than expected.
"I think the best races in my F1 career are still ahead of me, and that's why I was determined not to go anywhere else but F1. I have had difficult races, but also I have had good races, and I think that, here, I will have an opportunity to produce better results and get more out of the team. That is what I am working on."
After years spent alongside Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault and, more critically, Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, much is being made of Kovalainen now pairing up with Trulli for 2010, but the Finn insists that he expects to get along with the Italian.
"I'm not worried about my team mate - I have never been worried about my team mate - and I'm really looking forward to working with Jarno," he concluded, "He is obviously a very quick driver and I think we can push each other. We get on well on a personal level, so I think we can push the team forward and that is crucial from the beginning. Mike is demanding a lot from us." YahooEuroSport