Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen & Allison more optimistic of sustained championship push
Technical chief says winning title "not beyond the realms of possibility"
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 11/03/13 4:11pm
The Enstone outfit, who were last champions in 2005-2006 during their Renault-owned era, are aiming to build on the big progress they made last season when they claimed one race victory, ten podium finishes and a competitive fourth place in the Constructors' Championship.
Raikkonen went one better than that in the drivers' standings, staying in mathematical title contention down to the final month of the campaign, and on the eve of the first race of the new season, the Finn admitted the new E21 car felt a step forward in all areas.
He says an improvement in fundamental speed over 2012 is what Lotus require to make more sustained championship challenge, but isn't ruling out the possibility of that materialising.
"I think you always want more, but this car is a pretty good starting point and we'll see; hopefully we're fast enough," the 2007 World Champion said.
"I don't think there's any area where it feels worse than last year's car; so far everything is better. We had good speed last year, but not enough to win the championship.
"That means we need more speed this year. If we can get just a little more from the car and keep our consistency, with some better results at the beginning of the year, then we should have a much better chance."
Indeed, Technical Director Allison sees no reason why the team can't be right in the thick of title fight after there appeared little to choose between the top quarter of the grid during testing.
Asked if it was possible they could bring one of the two world titles back to Enstone by the end of 2013, the Englishman replied: "It's not beyond the realms of possibility."
Allison added: "It looks like we're entering an exceedingly close season from the evidence we've seen so far.
"Our car doesn't look bad against the opposition from what we can deduce, and we have a good team and good drivers behind it. It's certainly closer than last year, but we expected this going into a second season of relatively stable regulations."
Although Allison acknowledges it was "clear from the first test" that the E21 was able to mix it with the best new cars in the field, Lotus's winter programme was compromised by a number of technical problems - notably with the gearbox.
It meant the Enstone team, for all their on-track promise, completed the least mileage of anyone across the three tests. However, Raikkonen reckons they have no reason to be unduly concerned ahead of Melbourne.
"We had some problems in testing but we still completed quite a few laps," the 33-year-old said.
"Of course, you always want more laps, but it is what it is. We're all going racing and then we'll really see where we're at.
"I'm not really concerned about reliability or anything like that as it was the same problem which caused us the biggest problems in testing and we're on top of that now.
"You can never be 100% certain of course, but if you look at last season we had problems before the start of the year then we were pretty good when we got to the races. Of course we hope that we can perform better than last year, but let's see how it goes."