Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne says the decision to sign Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen for the team's debut season rather than hiring well-funded rookies proves that team boss Tony Fernandes is serious about succeeding in Formula 1.
Gascoyne admitted that while his preference had always been for two experienced, race-winning drivers, he initially doubted Lotus would choose that option for its lineup.
"I have to give massive credit to Tony Fernandes for having the balls to do it. I think it is a clear statement of intent," Gascoyne told AUTOSPORT. "I said all along that I wanted two experienced drivers, and actually we discussed it at a very early stage and Jarno was always our number one choice. I probably expected in the other seat we would have someone with a couple of years' experience, that was my hope.
"From very early on, Tony said, 'Why not Jarno and Heikki?' I sort of went, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Forget it!'
"Where Tony is exceptionally brave is that you have to generate the finance to make the team sustainable and he has not taken the short-term route – 'Let's take a guy who is bringing me in three or five million Euros' – he has taken the downstream route: 'Let's bring in a guy who is really going to take the whole team up, who is going to deliver results, and downstream I may be signing sponsors for 10 or 20 million Euros.' So he has had the balls to take that route. It really is a clear message of where he wants the team to go."
Gascoyne believes Lotus became an increasingly attractive option for drivers as the silly season became ever more unpredictable.
"As time went on and the driver market was so strange this year, with things like Michael [Schumacher] coming back, and Jenson [Button] moving and all of that... With Sauber dropping out, with Toyota pulling out, problems at Renault and everything, there was a lot of uncertainty," he said. "Lotus quite quickly came to be looked at as one of the best seats to get into. OK, it was a new team, but with Tony on board, with myself running the technical side, people seemed pretty confident in it.
"In terms of going onward and going forward, and the seriousness behind the project, I think we actually suddenly were one of the best seats to get into. So, actually, we were in a case where we could choose two experienced drivers and to be in that situation as a new team, you couldn't believe it."