Mike Gascoyne believes his Lotus team now only needs slightly better reliability to get fully on terms with the established midfield squads after a heartening Malaysian Grand Prix.
Lotus has set a target of getting among the midfield pack and scoring regular points this year, but it began its 2011 season back in its 2010 position between the more experienced teams and Virgin.
The Sepang race saw an upturn for Lotus, though, with Heikki Kovalainen coming home right behind the Toro Rossos in 15th.
"It's by far our strongest performance," Gascoyne said. "Also we made a bit of a step forward with reliability this weekend.
"The drivers really felt that if we get more time in the car over the weekend, we can make up the gap now which is only a few tenths. If we had got [Jaime] Alguersuari at the end there it would have been the first time that we had beaten someone on pace [other than the other new teams].
"We were only lapped by six cars, we were competitive with the midfield and really at the end when we were being lapped, we were struggling to slow down enough to let the cars go past! It's a real step forward for this team."
Gascoyne hopes the Sepang performance will proves Lotus's detractors wrong after it had failed to achieve its goals in Australia.
"We kept saying that we had to make that step into the midfield, we felt that we had in testing and we didn't go well in Melbourne and I think a lot of people were a bit skeptical and hopefully we have shown what we can do," he said.