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Fernandes: Lotus drivers have the 'full package' 14 Dec 2009

Tony Fernandes (MAL), CEO Air Asia. Motorsport Business Forum Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Day One, Wednesday 9 December 2009. Tony Fernandes (MAL), CEO Air Asia. Motorsport Business Forum Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Day One, Wednesday 9 December 2009. Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 20 June 2009 Fairuz Fauzy (MAL) Spyker F8-VII Formula One Testing, Day 1, Paul Ricard, France. 15 May 2007. World © Patching/Sutton

Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes admitted he was still pinching himself after signing two of the biggest names on the grid to drive for his new, Malaysian-backed squad next season. In Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen and Malaysian tester Fairuz Fauzy, Fernandes believes he has the perfect driver combination.

“We have three drivers who I believe complement each other excellently and who I think represent what Lotus F1 Racing and 1Malaysia is all about,” he said following Monday’s announcement. “That is not to say it was a straight-forward decision because we spoke with other drivers who I rate very highly, but ultimately we have opted for a careful mix of experience, youth and ambition.”

Trulli, left without a seat following Toyota’s F1 departure, is a former Monaco Grand Prix winner and made three podium appearances in 2009 en route to ninth in the championship. Kovalainen, also a proven race winner, scored 22 points for McLaren this season, before the team opted to replace him with Jenson Button for 2010.

“In Jarno we have the F1 veteran who proved in 2009 that he is as quick and determined as ever,” continued Fernandes. “In Heikki we have a continuing rising star who is still hungry to prove himself, and in Fairuz we have a Malaysian national driver who is eager to progress up the F1 ladder to fulfill the hopes of a nation. It's the full package if you ask me."

Fernandes admitted that with two experienced drivers onboard there would be even more pressure for the whole team to perform, especially against the other three new entrants for 2010, Campos, the US F1 team and Virgin.

“2010 will be the first season for Lotus F1 Racing and we have a lot to achieve in a short space of time,” he said. “As with any new venture, it is a case of 'all hands on deck'. Everybody has a vital role to play but it is about bringing a new team together and gelling. The drivers each bring different experience to the team and I think the combination of their skills will help us quickly establish ourselves as the ones to watch in 2010 and beyond."

As to Trulli’s and Kovalainen’s decision to take a chance on joining an all-new team, Fernandes believes it is a clear indicator of just how seriously Lotus are being taken.

“We have not even finished our first race car, so to attract two race-winning drivers to the team is a huge achievement and honour,” he added. “I think it is a testament to our ambition and our long-term vision that we have such talent on our books in year one. It is further proof that we are serious about what we do and I am sure the other new teams are looking at us with some envy right now.”