Lotus team boss Eric Boullier believes his team's Malaysian Grand Prix performance was an aberration and that it can return to challenging for victory from China onward.
Kimi Raikkonen had taken an assured win for Lotus in Melbourne, but the team's form dived at Sepang and the Finn finished a distant seventh, one place behind stablemate Romain Grosjean. In the wake of that result Lewis Hamilton declared Mercedes had assumed the mantle of Red Bull's closest challenger.
Boullier, however said the specific conditions in Malaysia had masked Lotus's pace, and that sixth and seventh – rather than Raikkonen's victory – were anomalous.
"I don't think it's completely revealing," Boullier said of Malaysia. "Obviously we had different conditions and it worked for Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari. I don't think it revealed [our] potential in that race. You can expect some much better results in normal conditions."
Where Raikkonen had been able to come through from seventh on the grid at Albert Park due to superior tire management, Boullier said it had been impossible to recover from a similar starting position at Sepang.
"Qualifying was not in our favor, [and] the time we lost at the start of the race we couldn't recover," he explained. "I think the team did a safe strategy for both cars in the points and we could keep contact with the leaders so it was good.
"It's all about tire management to do a nice race. [Malaysia] was a bit tricky, let's wait until normal conditions."
Boullier said he was confident the team could arrest its qualifying deficit to the frontrunners, particularly with new upgrades coming in time for the Chinese Grand Prix.
"With our car we have the pace over one lap now and we also have some good race pace," he said. "I think Romain's going to have the same upgrade in China as Kimi. There are parts coming at every race and we'll keep pushing, so it's going to be interesting."