Heikki Kovalainen says Team Lotus must be ready to add KERS at midseason if the lack of the device is proving too costly.
Although Lotus could have used new engine supplier Renault's energy recovery system, it decided to focus its resources on other areas of the car design rather than dealing with the complex packaging that KERS requires. Kovalainen backs that decision, but believes Lotus should be prepared to change it plans as the year progresses as it suffers against KERS-equipped rivals.
"If that is very obvious from the start of the season, then we have to react quickly to that," he told AUTOSPORT. "I think we need to just play it by ear and see where we are.
"The decision was made to put more resources in the aerodynamics of the car, rather than on KERS. Of course, as a driver I favor KERS, I'd rather have it because in a racing situation it's very important, and it's probably about three tenths of a second in pure lap time as well. But the team decided it was more important to get the aerodynamics right, and add the KERS later on.
"It should be a reasonably good system, because Renault had it a couple of years ago and they've probably further developed it now."
The team's chief operating officer Keith Saunt said when the car was launched that KERS had more disadvantages than benefits for a squad in Lotus' position.
"If KERS was going to get us from eighth to sixth then we'd have it," Saunt said. "But when you look at the weight of it and some of the engineering challenges, I think it's a good decision not to start with it. We might end up with it, who knows? But if we did we've got a lot of experienced people who could turn their hands to it."
Kovalainen thinks how Lotus can progress through 2011 will be a crucial sign of its growth as a Formula 1 team.
"This is the first year where we have to develop the car all the way through the year, rather than in the middle of the year start working on another project," said Kovalainen. "We are not big enough to work on two projects together, so we really need to learn how to work throughout the year. But even with the facility that we have now and the capacity we have now, I think we should be able to do it. It will be one of the key things to get up to speed on the development race, because if you ever want to win the championship you need to be able to do that."
He is not expecting miracles from 2011's T128, but wants to be in touch with the upper midfield.
"My personal goal for this year is to score points for the team whenever there's a serious chance. You've got to be there," Kovalainen said. "We've got to be in the [middle] group, and occasionally in some special circumstances we've got to be in the top 10 in qualifying in some freak races. We should finish the races on the same lap [as the leaders], and not be two or three laps behind."