Formula 1 teams are busy making preparations for the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship which kicks start in Bahrain on 13th March. Teams are currently testing their contenders at official test sessions and the first test session of the year concluded a couple of days ago in Valencia, Spain at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.

Malaysia’s Team Lotus was also present at the test with drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen shaking down and collecting vital data from the T128. We have managed to score an email interview with the team’s Chief Technical Officer, Mike Gascoyne and you can find the Q&A transcript after the jump.

How did this year’s car performed during the test in Valencia, compared to last year’s car?

Last year we were not even present at the first two tests, so to be ready for the first test shows how far we’ve already come. We had an extremely short time to build last year’s car and the primary goal was to be there in Bahrain with both cars, which we achieved. For the T128 we have had more time to design, develop and build the car so naturally it’s already proving itself to be better than the T127 in a number of areas. It’s a good base to start from and we are very happy with it.

If you were to put it in numbers, can you tell me how much the car has improved compared to last year’s car, in percent?

It’s not something we can quantify as there are improvements across the whole car. Fundamentally it is better balanced as it has a lower centre of gravity.

Are the drivers happy with the car’s behaviour on track?

So far yes. Both Heikki and Jarno are happier with the new car. Both of them commented that the car feels much better balanced than last year’s car and it is generally a significant improvement all round.

I understand that there was a power steering related problem that affected the test, has this been rectified?

Yes, the power steering was repaired and fitted to the car for Friday.

What about hydraulic issues that haunted the team last year? Do you think it has been rectified for this year’s car?

Yes, we’ve moved on. We’ve got a completely new, proven hydraulic system in the new car and it hasn’t given us problems and we don’t expect that it will.

Is the power steering problem linked to the hydraulics?

No, it was a mechanical issue rather than hydraulics. We know what caused it and we have fixed it.

At the Valencia test, an official time was set on Day 2, by Heikki. He was the slowest. It this a problem for the team?

No – it wasn’t a problem. The Valencia test was about shaking the car down, and while we did have a power steering issue, we fixed that for the third day and got down to 1.15.6 seconds which, with no setup work, was a decent time.

With less laps accomplished in Valencia, do you think the team has enough time to be fully prepared for Bahrain?

Yes, we have enough time. The power steering issue simply caused us to adjust our test programme. We shifted the programme a bit but we are still on schedule. We ran other tests on the car and will start on performance work and set up options in Jerez this week.

What is the specific reason of not running KERS in the 2011 car?

We have to spend the budget we have on the most cost-effective areas and KERS isn’t a priority for us yet – it may be later this year, we’ll see.

Is the team running the moveable rear wing?

Yes we are.

Are the drivers complaining about it?

No complaints at all.

The 107% qualifying rule is back this season, are you confident of complying to that?

Yes, we were well within 107% last season.

How are the Pirellis performing compared to the Bridgestones?

Well, so far. The relationship with Pirelli has begun very well and while there are always teething problems at the start we’ll have those fixed quickly.

Keith Saunt recently stated that he is looking at scoring between 40 and 50 points this season, do you think it is possible?

We’ll see – it’s an ambitious target but if we don’t aim high we won’t achieve anything.

Some drivers are saying that the Pirellis are degrading at a quicker rate compared to the Bridgestones, is this true?

We can’t really comment on what the other drivers are saying, but ours say that there is some rear degradation but they expect that to be minimised by the time we get to Bahrain.

Do you think we will see more pit stops as a direct result of this?

No.

What is your take on the team’s ambition of becoming a midfielder this season?

It is the only way forward for us. We are a serious team and our longer term plan is to win the championship. It is the same goal as the other teams and so for us this year it is important to mix with the midfield established teams. Next year’s goal will be another step forward.

Karun Chandhok was seen at the team’s garage in Valencia wearing a Lotus jacket, is there a possibility that he might become the team’s reserve driver?

Karun came as the team’s guest to take a look at us at work, and for us to take a closer look at him. We’ll see how that develops but nothing is confirmed yet.

Finally, what is your specific goal for the season-opening race in Bahrain?

The ultimate goal is points, but until we have more mileage under our belts it’s probably too early to tell.

Team Lotus, along with it’s rivals will head to Jerez, Spain (10-13th February 2011) for more testing before moving on to Barcelona (18th-21st February 2011) and Bahrain (3rd-6th March 2011).