Team Lotus, or “Tony’s Lotus” as the team is sometimes referred to in reference to the AirAsia boss, has launched its new T128 challenger for the 2011 Formula 1 season. And the reigning “best new team” is in bullish mood – the target is no longer to beat Virgin and HRT, but challenge the likes of Williams and Lotus-Renault, which is of course the other player in the Lotus vs Lotus saga.

“I think when you look at this car, it looks like a front-running car in every area. We’ve said very clearly that we want to start challenging the established teams, and I think that’s very achievable,” said chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “But that line has to continue going up, so we’ll have to target being up there with Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India, and then end the season by targeting Williams and Renault,” he added.

Team Lotus COO Keith Saunt prefers to set the target in figures. “A lot of people might say I’m too optimistic, but I’d like to think we’ll get between 40 and 50 points this year. I think we’re targeting eighth strategically, but I doubt there’ll be a lot between sixth, seventh and eighth. Depending on how the other guys are doing, seventh could be achievable.”

That’s huge progress Team Lotus is talking about, and we’ll only know if it’s possible once the longest season in F1 history gets underway come March in Bahrain. What do you think of TL’s optimism?