sport

Lotus eye top-three finish

Lotus have already set themselves the "lofty expectation" of a top-three finish in this year's Formula One world championship.

The team are the first to take the covers off their new car, but due to freak winds in Oxfordshire, were forced from an unveiling inside a marquee to the factory floor at their Enstone base.

With few significant changes to the regulations for 2013, the E21 bears what technical director James Allison described as a "family resemblance" to last year's model.

That was a car that propelled Kimi Raikkonen to third in the drivers' championship, with Lotus finishing fourth in the constructors as they amassed over 300 points, just 75 adrift of third-placed McLaren.

With Red Bull and Ferrari also ahead of them in the pecking order, it appears a tall order for Lotus to overhaul such rivals.

But chairman Gerard Lopez and team principal Eric Boullier are eager to build and prove last season was no flash in the pan.

Boullier said: "Third place is at least an achievement we would like to have this year.

"We obviously expect to pick up the momentum from 2012. There is some stability in the regulations, with both drivers more eager than ever.

"We will fight with everything we can to be in the top three."

Although considerable resource this season will be spent on the car for 2014 when new engine regulations come into force, Lopez insists no stone will be left unturned over the coming months.

"There's never a compromise in Formula One," said Lopez.

"It's a year where everybody will still be shooting for getting the maximum out of their team. It's the same in our case.

"Our expectations are to hopefully do better than we did last year, which is quite a lofty expectation. But it's what we are shooting for."

It was an impressive campaign last year as Raikkonen, returning to F1 after two years away, finished in the points in 19 of the 20 races.

Significantly, the Finn scored the team's first win since 2008, when they were formerly known as Renault, by taking the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi in November.

Given such success, Raikkonen admits there is obvious cause for early optimism, although added: "It's not going to be easy to improve on what we did last year.

"But that's the aim, to do better, and hopefully we can do it. We put our trust in the people who made last year's car and who have made this one.

"We try to improve in all areas. If you can qualify further up the grid, then it gives you a better chance to win races and makes your life a lot easier on race days.

"It's the whole package they've tried to make faster, and hopefully we've managed to do it."

Key to the ambitions of Lopez and Boullier will be Raikkonen's team-mate Romain Grosjean, who last season earned himself a reputation for instigating and becoming embroiled in too many accidents.

The fact Grosjean finished 111 points behind Raikkonen tells its own story, and so there is appreciable pressure on the Frenchman to pull his weight this year.

"I just want to be more consistent, saying I did my job and I did my best," said Grosjean.

"It's clear for everybody we lacked qualifying speed and there were too many incidents, so it's something I'm going to try and work on.

"We'll try and make the car as good as we can, and I will try to improve every time I jump in the car."

Asked as what he was expecting from Grosjean, Boullier said: "To not run like 2012!

"More seriously, we believe he has the potential to deliver, he can qualify well, can race well.

"He did it in the past. He won every championship he entered, so there is no reason why he shouldn't do well in Formula One.

"We want to deliver a top-three position this year, so we need both drivers - and obviously Romain - to bring some big points as much as possible."

In terms of looks, the car has retained the predominantly gold and black livery witnessed last year, although with more flashes of red - notably on the engine air intake and sidepods - than was the case in 2012.

Despite the opportunity to mask the step in the car's nose, deemed by many as 'ugly' when revealed by the majority of teams at the start of last season, Lotus have opted to retain the design.