Team Lotus should be aiming to compete with Renault and Williams by the end of 2011, according to the team's chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne.
Following the unveiling of the team's new Renault-powered T128 in Team Lotus Notes online magazine this morning, Gascoyne was bullish about the car's chances of progressing into the midfield fight this season.
"I think when you look at this car, it looks like a front-running car in every area," he said. "We've said very clearly that we want to start challenging the established teams, and I think that's very achievable. But that line has to continue going up, so we'll have to target being up there with Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India, and then end the season by targeting Williams and Renault."
Gascoyne added that while he recognized every team is capable of taking a step forward in 2011, the fact that Lotus was still a new team gave it a sharper learning curve which he hoped would translate to a faster rate of improvement than some of its rivals.
"The thing is, every team says they're going to progress each year and people might say, 'Well why are you going to do it better, then?' The simple fact is that they're going to keep doing what they do, whereas we're growing up," he said.
"We've got resources coming on stream now, like new CFD resources and a new wind tunnel program in the UK, that we've never had. What we can do now will get better.
"The problem for these other teams is that if we've been going for a year and then we start beating them, it's a very clear message and it sends out a story which is embarrassing for them and good for us," he said. "It would be great for Formula 1 if this car can take us into the midfield, because it shows what's achievable for a properly run small team."
The team's chief operating officer Keith Saunt added that Lotus' ambition was to break further into the top 10 in the 2011 standings: "A lot of people might say I'm too optimistic...but I'd like to think we'll get between 40 and 50 points this year.
"I think we're targeting eighth strategically, but I doubt there'll be a lot between sixth, seventh and eighth. Depending on how the other guys are doing, seventh could be achievable."
Elliot Dason-Barber, the team's head of R&D, was also confident that Lotus will be more competitive in 2011: "We're definitely going to take a step forward with this car. Quite how much we'll close the gap to the teams in front of us, we'll see, but my hope is we'll be competing with the teams that were a second or two ahead of us last season.
"When you're two seconds behind someone, it's tough; when you're half a second behind, you can start racing them."