Heikki Kovalainen has revealed that whilst the new Lotus T127 might be lacking downforce in relation to the front-running contenders in F1 2010, it nonetheless has 'potential' – despite the fact that he delayed the team's preparations somewhat with an early and heavy 'off' on his first run in it during pre-season testing at Jerez last week.
The Mike Gascoyne-designed T127 is the first Lotus car to adorn an F1 race track in some 16 years, but so far the closest it has got to the leading pace is a gaping 4.2 seconds in Kovalainen's hands on Friday – and at times it has been a good deal further adrift than that. Downforce, the Finn acknowledges, is the chief bugbear at the moment.
“We have not been able to develop the aero package as we should have,” he reflected, speaking to reporters in Spain. “We had five months to build the car, and everything has been a bit conservative. Before they started to design the car, they had no information about the engine, so cooling and everything is quite conservative.
“I think it's quite clear that we're lacking downforce compared to the quickest cars. It's not surprising – we expected it – and just looking at the numbers, we knew where we were going to be.
“For sure we can improve – just by looking at the car I could probably improve a few things. I'm sure we will be able to do this, but it will just take a little time. Once everybody in the UK – the design and manufacturing teams – begins working, we'll be able to make big improvements.”
Kovalainen's accident on Thursday [see separate story – click here
] necessitated the overnight delivery of a new front wing due to a lack of spare parts at the circuit, but on a more positive note, the reliability of the car has proven to be impressive thus far, with the McLaren refugee as well as team-mate Jarno Trulli and the Anglo/Malaysian outfit's test and reserve driver Fairuz Fauzy all benefitting from plenty of largely trouble-free laps behind the wheel.
“I think the potential is there,” the Suomussalmi native underlined, according to ESPN
. “The initial feeling was good. In the slow-speed corners the car is behaving quite well, but it's lacking grip, so in the high-speed [corners] we lose quite a bit of time, probably partly because of the set-up problems as well. Fundamentally, though, it is okay and I quite enjoyed driving it.”
Kovalainen similarly had some encouraging words of praise for the Cosworth V8 powerplant in the back of the T127, coming as he has done from having raced with the sport's Mercedes-Benz benchmark behind him for the past two seasons.
“In terms of pure power it's not too far away,” he affirmed. “It's probably not quite as good, but overall the feeling is quite positive – and the drivability felt very competitive as well compared to the Mercedes. The power is in slightly different areas, but I feel at the moment it is one of the stronger parts of the car.”