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Lotus must score points in 2011, says chief Riad Asmat

By Andrew Benson

A Lotus car in 2010
Team Lotus have set themselves high targets in 2011

Team Lotus say they are under pressure to score points this season to prove they are making progress after a successful debut season last year.

Lotus finished 10th in 2010, and were the best of the three new teams, but now want to bridge the significant gap to the rest of the field.

Chief executive officer Riad Asmat said: "This year, I've got shareholders on my neck saying it's points time.

"We know where we need to be - that's running with Toro Rosso and Sauber."

The team are owned by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes - the owner of the Air Asia airline - and his fellow shareholders Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin.

They invested a budget of approximately £50m in the team in 2010 as the start of a five-year programme that they hope will end with them winning races.

Mike Gascoyne
The car really will be a midfield runner. It's a modern F1 car. I'm very confident it is a big step up

Mike Gascoyne

The outfit competed under the name Lotus Racing in their debut season last year but have adopted the historic Team Lotus moniker after buying the rights to the name.

But they now find themselves in the awkward situation of racing against another team with Lotus in their title after Group Lotus decided to back out of a five-year licensing agreement with them in favour of becoming the title sponsor of Renault, which has been renamed Lotus Renault GP.

Asmat said Team Lotus's ambitions were not related to the split with Group Lotus.

"We know we are Team Lotus, so it's really not an issue for us," he said. "It is what it is.

"We have a five-year plan. It's unfortunate they decided to go their own way for reasons which to me are trivial.

"They get free publicity but we know who we are. It is about the culture of the team. That's what we've taken out of last year.

"When we started the programme, the target was to be up the front in five years' time and we won't change that by virtue of someone else being there, because if we push ourselves too much we will over-commit, and that's not good business."

Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne told BBC Norfolk on Monday that he expected his cars to be able to compete with those of the Renault team by the end of 2011.

Lotus finished last season 10th in the constructors' championship, with Renault fifth, and the Renault cars were 2.2 seconds faster per lap at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The two cars will both be launched in time to take part in the first pre-season test at Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo from 1-3 February.

Gascoyne said: "This year's car is a much more contemporary design. The car really will be a midfield runner. It's a modern F1 car.

"I'm very confident it is a big step up and it's the start of a process that takes Team Lotus back to the front of the grid."

A Renault F1 car in 2011 livery
Renault are being sponsored by Group Lotus in 2011

He added: "We have to step up into the midfield and be racing Toro Rosso, Sauber, Force India, Williams even.

"But I'm very confident about our development and where we're going from an engineering perspective.

"I think our goals are rising up from that and there is something personal about it. Certainly by the end of the year we want to be beating a team like Renault and I think we can be doing that."

He pointed out that the difference between the two different Lotus names in F1 was "we are a constructor, not a sponsor".

He added: "It's very clear, there are two Lotus cars on the grid, which are entered by Team Lotus, and two Renaults, which are entered by the Renault constructor. Lotus have chosen to sponsor them for whatever reason."

The two parties are involved in several lawsuits, relating to the rights to use the Lotus name and Proton's decision to back out of its contract with Fernandes.

Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar has told BBC News he expects the situation to be resolved before it reaches the courts.

But Asmat said: "We haven't heard anything from them - we haven't talked to them recently."

Asmat said it was "unfortunate" that Team Lotus and Group Lotus had not been able to find a way to work together.

And Bahar, who was appointed to his role after Group Lotus parent company Proton had done its initial deal with Fernandes, likened it to a failed marriage.

He said: "With any business relationship, you start on good terms and if it turns out to be beneficial for both parties, you continue. If not, you just stop - it's like in a marriage. And this one turned out to be an unsuccessful relationship."

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see also
Fernandes 'bullied' in Lotus row
16 Dec 10 |  Formula 1
Team Lotus abandon black and gold
12 Dec 10 |  Formula 1
Renault F1 sign deal with Lotus
08 Dec 10 |  Formula 1

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