Heikki Kovalainen is adamant the new Caterham CT01 is a clear step forward compared to last year's car.
The team, racing under the Lotus name last year, was the first to reveal its 2012 challenger last month, and the car took to the track today at Jerez for its first outing. Although Kovalainen's early running was hindered by some cooling issues, the Finn was left convinced the car is quicker than last year's machine.
"I think I can confirm this car is already quicker than last year's car," Kovalainen said at Jerez. "The performance is better, and the rear has more grip, which is positive. The steering feels slightly more precise. I have only done three laps so I can't really tell more but, so far, positive feeling."
Kovalainen managed 32 laps before the midday break, posting a 1m23.178s as his best time by then. He admitted the difference from the team's first test of 2011 is quite significant, as the car is now fully ready to begin testing properly.
"We are here at the first test and we have all the parts for the car," he said. "Last year we were missing parts like the power steering and the suspension. We had to compromise the setup. Now we are just fully prepared and the car is ready to go and I believe if we can fix this cooling issue and we can crack on with some longer runs then we can get a better idea of where we are. What I see from the cockpit just feels very solid."
The Finn conceded it was impossible to say where Caterham stands, especially since he hasn't been able to work on the car's setup.
"We've only done one setup change so far, so those are the kinds of things that we need to start doing and we will be able to see more after that. Once we've changed the ride height of the car – that is very important for the grip and we can balance the car for high speed and low speed to get a better idea – we will have some idea how it should work...but you just never know."