The Lotus team will look to continue the solid start it made to the 2013 F1 season when testing resumes in Barcelona tomorrow (Tuesday).
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean took a turn at the top of the timesheets at Jerez earlier in the month but, while team principal Eric Boullier was satisfied to see his drivers happy with the new E21 package, trackside operations director Alan Permane admits that there is still a lot of work to be done before the team can head to Melbourne confident that it can be a contender.
The second of three four-day tests kicks off at the Circuit de Catalunya this week, but the Enstone-based squad won't be throwing performance parts at the car just yet, with more subtle refinements the order of the day this time around.
“[Evaluating new parts and refining set-up] go hand in hand to an extent,” Permane explained on the Lotus team's official website, “The first Barcelona test is largely concerned with improving the car from the initial lessons learnt in Jerez, so we've worked on anything which didn't quite operate as expected or any components which need beefing up.
“This means there are minor updates to make the car more robust and raceworthy, which can be done in conjunction with performance work. Many of the updated parts are not necessarily performance parts, but more concerned with reliability, so a performance assessment can be conducted in parallel.
“We hope to pack in a number of long runs [this week] to get a much more detailed understanding of the tyres at a race circuit used during the season. We also aim to complete some full race distance simulations, complete with pit-stops, tyre changes and the car in action for a full complement of race laps - even down to formation laps and a simulated race start. We'll do more performance work with the car, and the race distance simulations will put everything through some good reliability testing.”
Permane lamented the number of laps the team was able to complete at Jerez, despite being happy with the mileage it achieved over the four days. The second Barcelona test, meanwhile, will be the one to give more clues to the E21's outright potential ahead of Australia.
“We'll have aerodynamic updates such as a new front wing, a new floor, a new rear wing and most of the Melbourne package to evaluate,” he revealed, “This means performance is more the focus. That said, even when we're focused on performance testing, reliability evaluation is a welcome by-product whenever we run the car.
“[Even by the end of testing], we'll still be in the early stages of the learning curve; particularly with regards to tyre performance. The track and ambient temperatures in Barcelona are likely to be well below what we could expect to see in Melbourne and particularly Sepang, and track temperature has a significant impact on how a tyre performs.
We'll have an idea of how the tyres have reacted in previous years at the test then at the first races, which will give us a framework of consideration [but], all that said, the first races are still very much part of the learning process for all of the teams and that often helps to make them some of the most exciting for those watching. We hope that we're at the forefront of that excitement.”