Tony Fernandes is aiming for his Lotus team to be fighting among the top five Formula 1 outfits in the next three seasons.
Malaysian businessman Fernandes has brought the legendary Lotus name back to grand prix racing, and his team has so far being the strongest of the newcomers. Heikki Kovalainen has been the only driver in one of the new teams to finish both in Bahrain and Australia, having also qualified in front of his direct rivals in Melbourne.
Fernandes now reckons Lotus can be fighting to be in the top 10 in the championship next year, before taking another step forward over the next two seasons.
"After Bahrain I've got the idea that within three seasons we can be up there up in the top five teams," Fernandes told AUTOSPORT. "Top 10, I would hope this time next year we could be up there. I think it's harder for them [established teams] to find two seconds, but easier for us, because we've had five months. We built a car that was heavier, we got the wrong radiators, etc. So I think we can catch them up.
"Race pace, we are not that far away. Heikki was giving [Nico] Hulkenberg a bit of a race, so I'm confident we can get to the Saubers and Williams and the Renaults and Toro Rossos. It does seem, even when I say it, it seems tough. I hope [to be in the top five over the next three years]. Lots of things are going to happen over those three years which I think will make it easier for us."
The Lotus boss, who is bringing a big majority of the financial backing, also believes his team will not need a huge budget to succeed in Formula 1.
"I don't necessarily think it does, to be honest," he added. "Toyota spent hundreds of millions of dollars and they never got there. I think it's people more than anything. If someone does an analysis on what's spent in Formula 1, there's a f***-load of waste. The $100 million doesn't equal $300 million of pace, necessarily."
Fernandes made it clear he is in Formula 1 for the long term, not only to succeed, but also because he believes it makes sense financially.
"Yes. You don't do it unless you are in for the long haul. We are here for passion but also for the business as well. We think it's a good business."
Full Q & A with Tony Fernandes