Heikki Kovalainen is confident his gamble on joining a new Formula 1 team by signing for Lotus will pay off, and insists he does not regret his decision.
Initial testing has highlighted the mountain that the start-up squads have to climb this year, with Virgin the only one of the four new teams ready for this week's Jerez test and struggling to complete much mileage even though it had made it to Spain. But despite turning down established teams to sign for Lotus, Kovalainen is still certain he has made the right choice.
"I had different options as well at the end of last year and some of those were with more established teams, but at the end I made the decision myself because I saw the most potential in this project," he said at the launch of the new Lotus T127 in London. "Talking to Tony [Fernandes] and Mike [Gascoyne] convinced me and only the future will tell whether it was a good or bad decision but so far I have no regrets and it has been better than expected."
The former McLaren driver said he had been impressed by everything he had seen at Lotus so far. "Better than what I had expected," Kovalainen replied when asked how Lotus compared to his expectations. "We are a bit ahead of schedule in terms of the design and build of the car. How everything is shaping up at the factory as well has been better than I expected, it looks very good there as well.
"The actual operation side, in terms of everybody working at the factory, it looks normal to me compared to what I have been used to before because all the people who are in the team are current people. They are not people who have been away for two or three years. They are people from last year, people from some different teams who have just finished their notice period and come to our team.
"So that actually works very normal. It feels like a routine already for the boys, so that is also pretty convincing."
He believes the new-look Lotus operation has the resources and ambition to become a success in F1.
"Tony is a very good businessman and he has a very impressive CV. For me the financial backing of the team looked convincing and that the money would be there to get the team going," said Kovalainen. "We can build a reasonable sized team, and I think eventually when everybody is on we are going to have 260 people – which is around the size of Sauber. That's pretty good.
"We have a facility that is not quite ready yet but eventually we will be able to design and produce parts there. This is also for me a message that we could make decent progress during the year in terms of improving the performance of the car. Those two things were major points – then obviously having Mike at the head of the technical team was the third major point that I based my decision on.
"Like I said, so far no regrets and this team has a lot of potential to become a very professional and successful team – even in the medium term."
He added that he also felt he still had to show his true potential in F1 after frustrating stints with Renault and McLaren.
"I think the best races in my Formula 1 career are still ahead of me," Kovalainen insisted. "That's how I was determined not to go anywhere else but Formula 1. Even the last two years. All my time in F1 I have had difficult races but also I had good races, and I think here I will have the opportunity to produce good results and get more out of the team regularly, and that's what I am working on."