Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes has admitted that Karun Chandhok is on the list of drivers being considered for a test and reserve role after joining the team for the first run of the new T128.
The Indian was an interested spectator as Heikki Kovalainen turned the first laps for the new car on Tuesday as he works towards securing a role in F1 for the year ahead.
Despite appearing in team colours, Lotus chief Fernandes insisted that no deal had been done to sign Chandhok although he admitted he was someone he would be keen to have on board.
“Karun's here as a guest,” he was quoted by Speed TV
. “I'm not someone who's going to rush into things. Karun is definitely on the list. I want it to be a team effort, I want everyone to feel comfortable. A lot of people get shoved into it, but it's not my style. 'Here, take this reserve driver, and do this.' I want everyone to feel good about it. And I think the reserve driver has to contribute, he's got to feel part of the team.
“Today is for him to see what the team's like. I think he likes us a lot, but he would, because he hasn't got anything else! Let's be real. But I want the team also to gel with him. I think he's a good lad, I think he can add a lot of value to the team. There are a few other guys. We've got a GP2 team as well. I really would like the team, as well, but I would definitely like Karun involved in some way, shape or form.”
The opening day of running for the new Team Lotus entry proved to be something of a disappointment after an issue with the power steering on the car limited Kovalainen's time on track and prevented him from chasing a lap time.
Despite that, the Finn said his initial impressions of the car were positive.
“Despite the limited running today the car felt fantastic,” he said. “It immediately felt like it was much better balanced than last year's car and the grip level felt ok, but it's a bit hard to make any real judgements as we weren't going for performance.
“Today was basically our shakedown and we managed to get through most of the checks we'd aimed to – it wasn't about pushing today, it was about checking the systems and making sure the new engine, gearbox and hydraulics are all working as we want them to.
“The whole team has had a very busy winter and everybody has been working flat out to make sure we could be at the first test of the season which wasn't the case last year. This morning we were the first car out on track and that's been the story all winter – we've hit all our targets and it was the same today.”
The team had hoped to have the power steering issue fixed overnight, but it appears that the repairs will take longer than expected, with technical director Mike Gascoyne revealing via Twitter
that the parts may not be back at the circuit until Friday, when Lotus will run a private test.