Team Lotus finally had a productive day in Valencia as they completed 91 laps on their third day of the first pre-season test.
Arriving here a day later than their rivals meant the team had the Ricardo Tormo track to themselves and they used it to good effect, with both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli getting behind the wheel of the new T128.
Also in the car this morning was Formula Two driver Ricardo Teixeira, who completed some filming runs for the team early in the day. The 26-year-old was very excited to be in a Formula 1 car for the first time. “I want to thank Team Lotus for giving me the chance to drive the T128 today,” said the Portuguese rookie. “I am really pleased I could help out with the filming this morning and after my first taste of an F1 car I can’t wait to have another go.”
Kovalainen completed 35 laps in the morning, an improvement on the meagre 15 laps that he completed on Tuesday when a power-steering problem curtailed his running. Speaking at the end of the day, the Finn was keen to emphasise how much better this new car is than the T127, its predecessor.
“Valencia was an excellent test for me,” said Kovalainen, summarising the last few days. “Even though we had some issues with the power steering on the first couple of days you have to remember we weren't even at the first two tests last year. Now we have a car that was ready to go with everyone else at the first test and to be able to run today without any problems is great.
“We have been able to start looking at the balance of the car in much more detail and I've had the same feeling that I did on day one – I think we have a good car for this year and as we continue to work on it here and at the other pre-season tests we can put some proper mileage on it without the reliability worries we had last year.
“On the car itself one of the most tangible improvements from last year is the lower centre of gravity we have this year. It's a smaller chassis and we can place ballast under it much more effectively, which means the whole car feels balanced in a way we didn't experience last year. Now, I can turn in without having to constantly correct oversteer or understeer and as the whole rear end has been designed with the Renault engine and Red Bull gearbox in mind, it is aerodynamically much more efficient.
“It's basically a very good platform for us to develop, and to be able to feel that immediately is a very positive sign for me and the whole team for the season ahead.”
Trulli completed 38 laps today, which was exactly the same number he managed yesterday. The difference was that today the Italian had working power steering, and was able to set some meaningful lap times. His best time of 1:15.679 would have been good enough for eleventh fastest yesterday.
“It was a great day for the whole team,” said Trulli. “We completed 91 laps with basically no problems and we've been able to start to get a feel for the car which was really what this test was about.
“I agree with Heikki about the balance – it feels like we have a good car to work on in the next few tests and I think that we can pretty quickly get it to a point where it will give us a chance to fight with the teams ahead.
“The next test is only a few days away but I think there will be a lot more to come there in performance terms, and it will be good to get back in the car in Jerez and get more mileage under our belts.”
Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne echoed the sentiments of his drivers but revealed that the team were still unable to complete any set-up work, something that most of their rivals managed here.
“An extremely productive day,” said Gascoyne. “It was good to get the power steering fixed and back on the car for today so well done to everyone at the factory for turning that around so quickly. We completed 91 laps today with no real problems and both drivers managed to get a good feel for the car and the tyres. We weren't able to do any set up work – that will wait for Jerez, but it was an excellent day and we achieved the main goal of completing a decent mileage today.
“We also managed to complete our filming runs this morning and that work was done by Ricardo Teixeira who did an excellent job in difficult conditions, but he acquitted himself well and that was exactly what we needed him to do.”
The second pre-season test in Jerez, which will be four days, begins on Thursday 10th February.