Lotus technical director James Allison has admitted the chassis fault that caused the team to withdraw from the first Barcelona test – and effectively cost it four days of running at the Spanish track – was a serious blow to its preparations ahead of the Melbourne season opener this weekend.
Romain Grosjean had completed just seven laps of running during the first Barcelona test when a problem was discovered with the mounting of the upper front wishbone rear arm, forcing the team to return to the factory to revise the part.
"It was a proper setback; we lost four days of testing," said Allison, whose team recovered to end winter testing fastest of all with driver Kimi Raikkonen. "The good thing is that our car was very reliable in the first test so the base of the car was already strong. This meant we didn't really have great doubts about whether we could run lots of laps once the specific failure of the chassis was addressed. However, it was lost setup time, a lost opportunity for our drivers to get more kilometres under their belts and lost opportunities for us to learn more about this year's tires. All of these were extremely unwelcome, but it was not a mortal blow."
"The diagnosis was very rapid," he added. "We had a redesign to solve the failure by the end of the day. The challenge then became managing the implementation of the repair sufficiently quickly to be ready for the second Barcelona test."
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said the outfit's goal is to set high targets of development and design in 2012 and that he would measure success this year on how far the E20 improves in lap time during the season, rather than merely than Lotus's position in the points standings.
"We want to be seen and performing as one of the top teams," he said. "For me this year will be monitored by the progress we make during the course of the season. That will be much more encouraging than any expectation of results or particular figures. If we can finish higher in the rankings, I will be very happy and that would be the best reward for our sponsors and for our team. That is clearly a target.
"We want to do better, we want to be better, we want to score more podiums and if we have a chance to win any races we'll be more than happy. The way we progress over the course of the season is the main goal."