Lotus' chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne has described the signing of leading design personnel Mark Smith, Marianne Hinson and Lewis Butler from Force India as a "statement of intent." He says drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen knew when they joined up that moves to recruit the trio were under way, and that this was key to convincing the two experienced racers to take a chance on the start-up team.
"Certainly starting next year and targeting where we're going to be next year and beyond, this is a significant statement of intent," Gascoyne told AUTOSPORT. "A little bit like signing Jarno and Heikki. You had two experienced drivers and people saying, 'They are going to be driving at the back of the grid. Why are they doing it?' Well, now you start to see why, maybe, because they would've known that these sorts of people were on board a long time before everyone else did. That's what they're signing up for, the fact that next year's car is going to be designed by people of this caliber. That's why they're on board."
He described Smith and his colleagues' decision to join Lotus as a major compliment to the young team.
"They have faith in the team, they have faith in the finance of the team, they have faith in me, they have faith in Tony [Fernandes]," Gascoyne said. "Norfolk isn't the easiest place in the [UK] to persuade people to come to, and the fact that they're moving their families, it shows the belief that there is in Lotus. I don't think they want to move to Norfolk because they're loyal to me – they've got to believe in what they're doing."
Gascoyne added that the new personnel would help Lotus move its focus onto its 2011 car.
"There will be updates all year, but it was always the intention to switch early," he said. "You saw in Turkey that we've come from five seconds off the pace to three seconds off the pace. But we're still a second off the cars in front – the Toro Rossos, the Williams, the Saubers.
"Now we think we'll close that down to not very much by the end of the year, but it still puts you 19th and 20th on the grid. So there's an element of saying, 'Why bother? Let's switch that resource onto 2011 and start 2011 in the midfield pack.' I think that's a very sound argument and that's very much what we're focused on, and again these guys are very much part of that."
While Hinson and Butler have already started work at Lotus, Gascoyne said Smith's arrival date depended on him negotiating a notice period with Force India.
"That's entirely in his hands and Force India's," he said. "He'll come to us when he's able to."
Lotus announced its new signings on the same day that Force India issued a statement insisting it was still pursuing legal action against the team, but Gascoyne played down the situation between the two squads.
"It's unfortunate. We regard the legal action as old news, really," he said. "We feel that situation will become eminently clear to everyone as that develops."