Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester believes their E22 car could be "very strong" in 2014 but admitted that they might languish near the back of the grid until the European season starts.
After skipping the season's first pre-season test at Jerez, the Enstone team struggled during the remainder of winter testing and arrived in Australia for the opening Grand Prix of the year clearly unprepared.
The Lotus drivers were way off the pace during qualifying and failed to finish the race in Melbourne.
However, during an interview with ESPN, Chester said that he remains confident of achieving much better results as soon as the majority of their problems were solved.
"From what we have seen on the chassis in terms of measurements, particularly on the aero side, it still looks very strong," Chester told ESPN.
"There is nothing fundamental on the car that will stop it being competitive but we need to get to a sufficient level of mapping and operating the car so that the drivers can extract the maximum from the E22.
"There are clear, identifiable areas where we can find big chunks of time. Once we have more mileage under our belt and worked on the balance of the car then the drivers will feel more comfortable and we will make good progress."
Despite being optimistic about the car's potential, Chester admitted that Lotus is likely to remain off the pace until the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
"It is difficult to make a strong prediction after the weekend we have just had in Australia, especially with the limited mileage under our belt. I'm certainly hoping for an improvement for Malaysia and then some more in Bahrain, although as they are back to back it is likely to be small steps," Chester continued.
"It may well be Barcelona before we are in a more stable position and compete at the level we want to be at. One thing's for certain, we're not sitting back; we're pushing all the way with the focus on extracting the maximum from the E22."