Top ten in touching distance - Chester
Technical director Nick Chester believes Lotus is on the verge of establishing itself as a regular points finisher again despite a frustrating time at testing in Bahrain.
The first in-season test was much like the pre-season at the Sakhir circuit for Lotus, with power unit issues severely limiting the team's mileage. But Chester is convinced Lotus has caught up with Toro Rosso, who have had three points finishes so far this season, after seeing a big step forward in pace between the last two race weekends.
"The E22 has tremendous potential even if we are only gradually unlocking it," Chester said. "In the Bahrain Grand Prix we were closer to Mercedes, Williams and McLaren than we have been previously. Our race-pace gap to the Williams and McLaren is now half a second and it was over a second in Sepang, so we've made a decent incremental improvement.
"Although we were still not quick enough in Bahrain, we actually don't need to find much more performance before we can be regularly in the points, which when you consider where we started from, is encouraging. We are about level with Toro Rosso for pace at the moment.
"Were it not for the safety car incident in Bahrain, Pastor would have been fighting for our first point. That's not where we want to be, but we're on the edge of the points during what are still very early days for the E22."
Chester also feels Lotus is far better suited to China and expects to see a bigger improvement than last weekend as a result.
"It should be better than Bahrain. Bahrain was an obvious power circuit, as you could see from the way the cars lined up on the grid. China's got a long back straight, however there are more slow and medium speed corners than Bahrain, so that gives us the chance to try and get closer to the front.
"There are quite a few areas. Partly because of how immature the car is we haven't managed to evaluate all the performance capabilities we want to yet. The big areas I would say are braking, aero and the power unit."