Lotus is not convinced that it will continue to have a decisive tire-wear advantage over its rivals in every grand prix this year.
The E21's tire management was key to Kimi Raikkonen's Australian Grand Prix victory as it allowed him to make only two pit-stops compared to the three of his main rivals.
While Lotus is confident that the car is one of the best in terms of tire degradation, technical director James Allison doesn't count on being able to do this everywhere.
"It's fairly finely balanced and we can't assume that we will be able to pull off the trick of running one fewer stop than everyone else at a competitive pace everywhere we go," Allison said. "The car is good, the drivers have both said that from the outset and they have a good feeling about it, but it's not a given at all.
"It doesn't take much to shove the tires from being able to do the two-stopper that Kimi managed to the three-stopper that Romain [Grosjean] ran."
Allison admitted that the car's qualifying performance was roughly representative of its position in the competitive order, but that the tire characteristics this year means that starting position is not as important as it was at the end of 2012. Raikkonen and teammate Grosjean locked out the fourth row behind the Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes cars.
Lotus has downplayed expectations of a title bid, but Allison is confident that the car can continue to be in the mix as long as the tires remain key to race form.
"On one-lap running, we are the third- or fourth-quickest team and that means we are going to be somewhere from fifth to eighth [in qualifying]," said Allison.The indications from the car are that it is capable over a wide range of tracks of running competitive in the races.
"The tires are less of a story than everyone was anticipating but they are more highly strung than last year. Qualifying pace is therefore slightly less important than it was at the tail end of last season, because it doesn't take many laps at two or three tenths of seconds a lap degradation before the qualifying pace is meaningless."