Lotus is heading into the 2013 Formula 1 season confident it has a car capable of fighting at the front, but equally aware the battle for victory is going to be more intense than ever.
With paddock consensus suggesting there is little separating the leading teams in performance terms ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Lotus is at least buoyed by what it has delivered so far. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean having produced both quick single-lap performances and some impressive long-run pace, Lotus boss Eric Boullier says that optimism is as high as it was last year.
Asked if the feeling was similar to 2012, when Lotus followed its promising winter testing programme with a strong campaign, Boullier said: "Yes. We have similar confidence that we will be able to have some good results in the coming races. But, you can feel many more teams are capable of delivering today, so that will be tricky."
There is no obvious front-runner based on testing pace so far, and everyone is aware the form book could change dramatically when F1 teams are greeted by warmer track and air temperatures in the opening races of the campaign.
Boullier added: "My personal belief is that we are getting closer to what we want to achieve. We need to see in real conditions, in proper temperature and proper weather conditions for the tires how the car performance is, and it looks like it is going to be very tight. All the teams are getting definitely closer and there is definitely this question mark about the performance order between qualifying on one lap and the race."
Boullier concedes that the difficulties in getting a truly representative understanding of the 2013 tires make predictions for Australia hard.
"Today I think there is a bit of a challenge to understand what is going on," he said: "You could see one lap performance from some teams, and here the Mercedes team was fast, definitely.
"But you have a different story when you go for fuel run and race simulation. The order you can see in qualifying is different from the order you can see in the race, so it is going to be interesting.
"Also there is still a question mark about the tires. Obviously the conditions are a bit different for what the tires have been designed for, so the hot temperature in the coming races will be a different behavior."