Many pundits had been wondering whether Lotus would be a spent force coming into the 2013 F1 world championship, after a below-par showing in the 12 days of pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona last month.

But a strong showing in Friday's two free practice sessions at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia proved there was plenty of pace in the new E21 car after all, and the team is looking forward to further advances on Saturday.

"It's good for the season to start and the car felt pretty strong out there," said Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the day. "I don't think we're the fastest but it's a good start. It was nice to have a reliable day after spending some time in the garage during testing. "

Related Articles

The Finn ended up with the fourth fastest time on Friday with a lap of 1:26.361s, just over three tenths faster than his French team mate Romain Grosjean.

"It feels great to be out on circuit and on such a lovely day too. The track felt good and the car felt better," said Grosjean. "It took a while for the grip to come to us, but you expect that on a street circuit.

"We made good progress with set-up on the car over both sessions and I think there's more to come which is promising," he added, sounding very positive with progress so far in Australia.

Alan Permane, the team's trackside operations director, said that Friday's running has shown that the new E21 car had performed reliably and had provided good data for determining the team's set-up for Saturday's qualifying session.

"We evaluated a new front wing on both cars," he revealed. "Kimi ran with a new floor in both sessions." Other work on the car included evaluating revised exhaust outlets on both cars and concentrating on long distance runs in the late afternoon session.

"There were no surprises from it or the car," said Raikkonen. "We'll have to see what happens tomorrow with qualifying as maybe it will be a bit cooler. I'm happy so far this weekend."

The team's technical director James Allison agreed with that, characterising the day's work as "a steady start" for both drivers.

"The car has run reliably and reasonably quickly, but we feel there's more to come from it," he said. "Broadly it?EUR(TM)s been a successful day in terms of the programme we had in mind for these opening sessions.

"There's still work to be done, but we're certainly running with the leading group which bodes well for the rest of the weekend," he added.