Heikki Kovalainen believes the new Lotus T127 has fundamentally good potential, although he acknowledged that the team would take a while to get fully up to speed.
The former McLaren driver had his first test for Lotus at Jerez today. Although he only completed 30 laps due to rain, a hydraulic problem and then a trip into the barriers that broke the only front wing the team had at the track, Kovalainen said his first impressions were very promising.
"I think the potential is there," he said. "My initial feeling from this morning was good. The feeling is that in the low-speed corners, the car is behaving quite well.
"It's lacking grip, and in the high-speed [corners] I think we lose quite a lot of time, partly because of the setup problems as well. The car is a little bit heavy still and we need to make it lighter, then we can move the balance around and all these things. But I think otherwise, fundamentally, it feels quite OK. I actually enjoyed driving it from the beginning. Apart from the hydraulic problem that we had this morning, once we got going it was all OK."
Lotus was pleased to have a trouble-free first day of running with test driver Fairuz Fauzy yesterday, and Kovalainen reckons this bodes well.
"I think yesterday was much better than we were anticipating," he said. "To be honest, Mike [Gascoyne] has always said that the car should be reasonably solid, should be quite strong – maybe not the quickest initially, but it should be fine.
"You always have some doubts. We went to do a shakedown in the UK and we had some small problems there, so you never know how it's going to be. But yesterday was actually very good. We didn't have any big problems. Even the problem that we had today was not actually a physical problem, it was just the installation of the hydraulic system was not correct, so once we got that running it was, in fact, running as it should do.
"Of course, the mileage is the important thing," he added, "but I think we've already got some stuff done regarding engine mapping, throttle mappings, the diffs, really all the electronics of it. They were not like I think they should be, and I think we've already improved them today. The most important thing is to do miles because that's how we can pick up problems that otherwise we will get in Bahrain. That's our main objective, regardless of the weather."
He believes the Cosworth engine is currently one of Lotus' main assets – comparing it favorably to the Mercedes V8 he used at McLaren last year.
"I think in terms of pure power it's not far off," Kovalainen said. "It's probably not quite as good, but for an early days feeling it's quite positive. And, in fact, the driveability felt very positive as well compared to the Mercedes. Power is in slightly different areas, but I think it's one of the stronger parts of the car at the moment and I think they've done a good job."
He added that his crash this afternoon was a simple error rather then caused by a car issue.
"It was just my mistake," said Kovalainen. "Coming out of Turn 2, into 3, I went on the power a little bit too aggressively. I lost the rear, corrected, went into the gravel, and then head-on into the wall. That damaged the nose."
Kovalainen will continue in the car tomorrow before handing over to Jarno Trulli on Saturday.
Full Q&A with Heikki Kovalainen