Heikki Kovalainen was delighted after giving the new Lotus T128 its first on-track run today despite completing only 15 laps because of a power steering problem. The Finn spent the day completing short installation runs, but despite the problems is confident that the team now has a competitive car.
"I'm very positive," Kovalainen told AUTOSPORT. "The feeling and the sensation from the car was totally different compared to last year.
"It has a lot more potential than last year's car; it's just difficult to say how quick it is yet because we didn't give it a single lap to set a time. It [the running] was just to check the installations. Tomorrow we will get a better idea."
The former Renault and McLaren driver added that he was able to get a feel for the car despite the problems and is looking forward to driving it again. Jarno Trulli will get behind the wheel for the first time tomorrow, but Kovalainen will get another chance on Friday, when Lotus will complete some promotional running for filming purposes.
"I had a go today already," he said of whether he was looking forward to really pushing in the car. "I wanted to give it more of a go but the power steering was failing inconsistently in different corners so it knocked some confidence away to have it jamming! You don't expect that.
"But I'm feeling very positive and eager to do more laps. Hopefully, the team can have a good day tomorrow and maybe I can get a better idea and push the car a bit more. I feel full of energy after the winter and feel like I can push the car to the limit. I'll just have to wait a few more days!"
Kovalainen has spoken regularly of his confidence in the team's potential over recent years and his first taste of the new car has underlined his belief in the outfit.
"It's backing up the same feeling that I've had since the beginning of my Lotus career," he said. "I knew that last year was going to be difficult and it was going to be tough to build a better car last year, but we have been able to plan, design and build this car over a long period of time. Certainly, this car is a good platform for developing further.
"There are a lot more people involved in the team now; it's a proper F1 team. We still need to grow, we still need to improve our facilities and notch it up a gear or two, but it's excellent progress and the team can be very proud. We're in much better shape compared to last year."