Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes has set a target for his rookie team: to be among the top five Formula 1 teams in the next three seasons. “After Bahrain I’ve got the idea that within three seasons we can be up there up in the top five teams. Top ten I would hope this time next year we could be up there,” he told Autosport.

“I think it’s harder for them (established teams) to find two seconds, but easier for us, because we’ve had five months. We built a car that was heavier, we got the wrong radiators, etcetera, etcetera. So I think we can catch them up. Race pace we are not that far away. Heikki was giving Hulkenberg a bit of a race, so I’m confident we can get to the Saubers and Williams and the Renaults and Toro Rossos. It does seem, even when I say it, it seems tough.”

The Lotus Racing and AirAsia chief also spoke about money matters, and repeated that you don’t need big budgets to do well. “Toyota spent hundreds of millions of dollars and they never got there. I think it’s people more than anything. If someone does an analysis on what’s spent in Formula 1, there’s a fXXX-load of waste. The hundred million doesn’t equal 300 million of pace, necessarily.”

Successful businessmen don’t just enter something out of passion alone, and Fernandes concurs. “You don’t do it unless you are in for the long haul. We are here for passion but also for the business as well. We think it’s a good business,” he said.

Of the new teams, Lotus is at present the team to beat. The Malaysian funded outfit had two of its cars classified as finishers in Bahrain when others faltered, and Heikki Kovalainen was only one of two among the rookie teams who completed the Australian GP, well ahead of HRT’s Karun Chandhok. Let’s hope they can build on this and leave Sepang with some encouraging results!