Romain Grosjean made his full-time return to the F1 fraternity on day three of the Jerez group test, getting his hands on the new E20 debut for the first time as team-mate to Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.
The Frenchman, who returns to F1 as reigning GP2 Series champion after a troubled first taste of the top flight at Renault in 2009, followed his new team-mate's lead in being on the pace immediately, setting the fastest time in the morning, and remaining in the top two through to the end of the day, albeit unable to match Nico Rosberg's flying effort in the 2011-spec Mercedes.
More importantly, he was able to rack up 117 laps in a day that remained trouble-free until he parked out on the circuit with just ten minutes remaining, apparently low on fuel. The stranded Lotus caused a red flag, which subsequently merged with the chequer signalling the end of play.
“I am one of the happiest guys in the world right now," Grosjean, who had been instructed to run his car dry to test the fuel pick-up system, enthused, "It's been a really good day for me.
"The car feels good on different fuel loads and tyre compounds we used. We were fastest in the morning, then completed some longer runs in the afternoon. It's great to finally drive the car which I have seen coming together and being built at Enstone. For sure, there's margin for improvement in the tests ahead, but it's a great start to the year."
Grosjean's programme consisted of the usual system checks, temperature monitoring, data correlation and evaluation of the performance of the car with its initial aerodynamic package, but trackside operations director Alan Permane confirmed that it had been another positive session, especially on the reliablity front.
"Another strong day with 117 laps and over 500km completed," he reported, "We ran a similar programme to the one we ran during the previous two days with Kimi. This gives us good data across a range of scenarios and valid comparisons between our drivers.
"Track conditions were better today, with more rubber down and less wind than yesterday. We conducted set-up work on the medium compound tyre in the morning. Some of these were set-ups we ran with Kimi, others were new. In the afternoon, we focused on getting as many laps completed as possible to test the reliability of the E20, which proved to be faultless.”