Pastor Maldonado has expressed his pleasure with the early pace of his Lotus E23 after topping pre-season testing for the second time this week.

Having gone quickest on day one, Maldonado returned to the car on day three to stop the clock at 1min 24.348secs - the fastest lap of the test so far - putting himself and Lotus at the head of the timesheets once again.

Another hint that the Mercedes-powered Lotus has made a significant step forward over the winter, though Maldonado insists it is early days, he says the potential and reliability of the car excites him.

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"It is looking quick and it is nice to drive," he said. "Driveability is very good, it is very good to work with the engineers. I think it is step forward.

"We have been working so hard to achieve a good car and we have been working on the big problems we had last year, so there is a clear improvement. It is early days and we still need to work very hard, but we are learning a lot.

"Today was important for us to do a lot of mileage and put laps together to see the performance and the reliability of the car, the brakes, the temperatures and the general things. For the set-up and for the car there is still a lot to do. We are not at the top of the potential of the car [yet]."

Having notably struggled in terms of top speed in 2014 with the Renault-powered E22, Maldonado has been posting strong figures through the speed traps with this year's car. Indeed, though he says the Mercedes power unit is a factor in Lotus' impressive performance so far, he insists the car was designed to work well with the engine.

"We have been designing for a long time this car - to adapt the car to the engine. It is not a car and an engine, it is a complete package which is working together."

"The car is quick, I don't how much it is against the others but it is quicker than last year. We were slow last year on the straights, but we have a good top speed [here]."