Heikki Kovalainen is happy with the progress Lotus have made with their new F1 car.
Speaking to journalists after today’s test in Jerez he said: “The whole concept is now a modern Formula 1 car. It’s much more like a Formula 1 car should be.
“The rear end is very good. The gearbox and the engine feels good, the gear-changes and generally the rear end is working really well.
“And the chassis feels like a proper Formula 1 car. It’s much, much lighter. This time last year we were overweight, we could not take any weight out of the car. Now we have ballast in the car – a lot of ballast.
“So it’s a huge difference. I don’t know how much the chassis is lighter – I think it’s around 20 kilos, something like that.
“Of course we still need to improve and find more pace. But it’s very encouraging what the team has been able to do in a short period of time. Of course now it gets difficult – the last part to catch the guys ahead of us is going to be tricky.”
The team has had a series of technical problems in testing so far and Kovalainen hopes the car will be reliable for the first race of the year:
“All the problems that we’ve had have been relatively minor issues but we haven’t had spares here.
“Everything’s been rushed to get to the first few tests. We are still short of spares and it’s been a little bit unfortunate but no problem has repeated itself, we’ve managed to fix the problems and that’s one of the reasons why we’re here.
“We need to get over these initial problems and then we need to put a lot of miles on the car. Then there will be another wave of problems coming. Once we sort those problems out – the second wave, if you like – then the car will be reliable. Hopefully we can do that before the first race.”
Kovalainen had to cope with an exhaust problem on the car today. The team will try to fix it overnight to give him the opportunity to do some longer runs tomorrow.
He said: “We had problems that at some point looked as though they were going to limit our running.
“We had a problem with the exhaust but we managed to get a spare over here. And I think in the afternoon we were able to complete two very good set-up tests.
“So I think overall three very good tests done today which was good and I also a got feel for all sorts of tyre compounds.”
Kovalainen added the difference between the four tyre compounds supplied by Pirelli was “less than I was expecting”.
“And to be honest even less degradation that I was expecting.
“I don’t know if the circuit is improving and the conditions are getting better but it felt better for me than from what Jarno [Trulli] was describing yesterday and reading the other drivers’ comments.
“I haven’t done a 12-lap run yet so we need to do that and then we’ll know better.
He added: “For me the super-soft and soft felt quite good – especially the soft, it felt good. Even the degradation didn’t feel too bad.
“The medium compound already feels like it’s not really biting into the tarmac very well. It’s not degrading, either, it just seems a bit slow. Slightly too hard for this circuit, that’s my impression.”
He said the biggest difference between this year’s tyres and last year’s is their performance in high speed corners:
“For me the rear end is more tricky at high speed. Generally last year the rear, when it was moving and if the car was oversteering, was more of a gentle slide, whereas now it feels sharper and some moments are surprising.
“So, inconsistent rear grip at high speed. At low speed it’s not a huge difference so far, for me. You need to exit high speed on the power.”
2011 F1 testing