Lotus team boss Eric Boullier says 2012 will still be a year of adjustment for the squad, with 2013 the first season when it will be fully operational.
The team has undergone several changes, including a new ownership, over the last year and faces 2012 with relatively modest goals after a difficult 2011. Racing under the Lotus Renault name, the team finished in fifth place in the standings last year, and Boullier wants to go one better in the upcoming season.
"Obviously, 2012 is very welcome after a poor 2011 and very hectic year," said Boullier. "It's clear we've maintained our ambition on track and we want to carry on the full restructuring, progress and change that we started one year ago. We now have a clear target.
"We know that we have a strong commitment from our shareholders, that we want to be a top team and seen as a top team. 2012 will be the year of our final adjustment to be ready and fully operational from 2013 with an ambitious plan. For 2012 we expect to be in a position to fight for fourth place for the championship."
He added: "We have conducted a very long and deep process since 2010. You cannot return to being world champion in one day or one month. You need time.
"We had a complete review of our process and structure. 2012 will be the final step towards building a winning and ambitious team, as I've said before; a clear target for 2012 and also after 2014."
Boullier also reckons having signed Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean shows how eager the team is to return to winning ways as soon as possible.
"I think our driver lineup reflects the ambition of this company and this team," he said. "It is clear that to have Kimi back on track – on top of being a nice media and PR action, we need a driver of the caliber of Kimi to be able to fight for the top positions.
"It is also good to have Romain joining us, because he has clearly demonstrated his value, talent and speed over the last 18 months. He is definitely now mature and ready. He is good for the French market, for Total and for Renault. It's good to see him with us. He is our future."