Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne said the Malaysian Grand Prix marked the first time that the squad could really start racing its rivals, after an encouraging run to 15th for Heikki Kovalainen.
Although the Finn did not manage to beat any of the established teams, he had sufficient pace to keep the likes of Toro Rosso, Force India and even Mercedes in sight at times.
"Overall, our pace was very good at the end, particularly when we were with the leading cars, and we were very close to passing one of the Toro Rossos as we came over the line which shows how we have progressed," said Gascoyne. "This weekend has been by far our strongest race performance since we came back into Formula 1, so it is good to be racing again."
Team boss Tony Fernandes agreed that this was a breakthrough weekend for Lotus.
"Well I think we can officially say we were racing today!" he said. "It was a real shame about Jarno [Trulli, who had clutch problems] as I really wanted two cars to come home but Heikki drove a fantastic race and it is exciting that he was really pushing the Toro Rossos in the final few laps –- maybe with a couple more laps he would have passed one of them.
"He kept pace with cars that were much faster than us during qualifying so I'm thrilled that we have recorded 15th at what was a very tough circuit, so huge congratulations to the whole team and well done to everyone."