LONDON, April 29, 2013 (AFP) - Team chief Eric Boullier has heralded Lotus's emergence as title contenders for 2013 and signalled a raft of upgrades that will increase the Renault-powered outfit's competitiveness at next month's Spanish Grand Prix.
Reflecting on the points earned in the four 'flyaway' season-opening Grands Prix in Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain, Boullier said he and the team were confident they can can maintain the big overall improvement in form that has lifted them to the front of the field.
"It is always difficult to keep any momentum actually, but we can say we are fighting with the best now," said Boullier.
"The challenge the team faces going forward though is in ensuring that it has the development potential to push on."
Lotus's early form has made them the most improved team in the field in year-on-year comparisons. Finn Kimi Raikkonen has delivered three podium finishes, including a victory in Australia, and the team overall has scored 36 points more this season than it did in the same four races last year.
Raikkonen alone has improved his tally by 33 points to emerge as a serious contender for the drivers' world title.
And Boullier promised that the early season dazzle is no flash in the pan for the team as they seek to end Red Bull's three year reign at the top.
Looking ahead to the Spanish race at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona on May 12, he said: "We have an update for the car, just like everybody. I don't know what Red Bull means by massive - so we will see!
"But we will all bring a nice package and I promise you that the development of this car is going very well."
Lotus are not the only team enjoying an improved points tally.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes have shown big gains this year with the former's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa delivering 28 points more in 2013 than he scored in 2013 -- a major part of the team's improvement by 32 points.
Mercedes, with Brition Lewis Hamilton showing the way, have improved by 27 points.
By contrast, McLaren, the team he left behind, have dropped 69 points over four races and need to see a sensational return from the promised major new upgrade they intend to run in Spain.
"Maybe it is a character flaw, but I have made it reasonably clear from Australia that I am not even talking about 2014 at the moment," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh, when asked if he was abandoning this season and switching early to ensure he has a car ready for 2014.
"One of my weaknesses is I want to be competitive. I want to get back to the front and I want to come to grands prix thinking we can win. We haven't thought that for the last four races and we want to get it back."