Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean may have shown the potential of Lotus F1's new E20 model during testing in Jerez last week, but the team insists that the car will be 'significantly different' by the time the pair hit the track for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in six weeks' times.
Raikkonen paced the opening day of the test on his return to group testing, while GP2 Series champion Romain Grosjean chased Nico Rosberg's 2011-spec Mercedes on day two, but technical director James Allison admits that lessons learned during the four-day stay in southern Spain, plus the natural development cycle of an F1 car necessarily means that the original model will have morphed into something else by the time racing gets underway in Albert Park.
"The car we take to Melbourne will be significantly different to the one we ran in Jerez," he confirmed in an interview with the team's official website, "There's a lot of work still to do before the season opener, and so many elements will change - the front wing, rear wing, side pods, pod vanes, engine cover, barge board, floor, some suspension elements, and some small brake duct features.... to name but a few! As always, it's going to be a very busy few weeks."
After a frustrating 2011 campaign - which began with similarly promising test performances and yielded two early podium finishes for Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld before the radical forward-facing exhaust design proved to be a blind alley and allowed the rest of the leading pack to pull away and the midfield to close in - Lotus is determined to continue moving forward throughout 2012.
"Not having the forward facing exhaust has definitely made the car build part of the process simpler," Allison admitted, "It's much quicker to get the car turned around every evening and get it ready for the next day's running because it's a more straightforward layout.
"In terms of running and analysing the car on the track, there shouldn't have been anything inherently difficult about last year's car, but it did turn out to be quite challenging as the exhaust system created several aerodynamic issues. So, in that respect, the E20 is easier to work with again. This means our race engineers can fill their boots with springs, roll bars, tyre pressures, cambers, and so on - all the conventional tools in the engineer's arsenal."
The Enstone team is currently building up a second chassis for use in next week's Barcelona test, where Raikkonen and Grosjean will hope to continue mixing it with McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari.