Lotus and Caterham enjoy productive second Formula One test days in Jerez
Caterham put behind them a curtailed opening day of testing to rack up a mammoth 139 laps on day two in Jerez.
Heikki Kovalainen finished his time in the CT01 for the Hingham-backed outfit with the slowest pace of the 2012 cars on show – but more than enough laps to indicate just how far the former Team Louts constructor has come in two years.
The Finn also had full use of the Kers power boost system on Wednesday – something the team will have at its disposal for the first time this season.
Kovalainen's unofficial best time of one minute 21.518 seconds was two and a half seconds quicker than his Tuesday efforts, which came to an early end after a starter shaft failure.
'Yesterday we had a problem that was nothing to do with the car, so today was our first real day of testing and we had a trouble free day,' said Kovalainen.
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'I'm really starting to get a feel for the car – basically it's good news. This car is a lot better than the 2011 car, it's quicker and everything works as we want it to. We've made very solid progress and I feel really good physically, so I think there's a lot more to come.'
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne added: 'Today we were concentrating on the set-up programme, using long runs to really start understanding what this car can do. Having completed 139 laps we have made a huge amount of progress, particularly compared to last year, and now we have to make sure we keep up this sort of momentum for the rest of the tests.'
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Michael Schumacher – in Mercedes' 2011 W02 – was well clear of the rest of the field as Ross Brawn's team tried to get to grips with Pirelli's 2012 tyres, before unveiling their charger for the new season at the second test in Barcelona.
Only the Red Bull RB8 of Mark Webber came close to the German's 1:18.561 best, Webber clocking 1:19.184.
Jenson Button's McLaren MP4-27 and the Ferrari F2012 of Felipe Massa were more than one and a half seconds off Webber's test pace, while Paul di Resta's Force India VJM05 continued to impress.
Kovalainen's Caterham topped the lap tally chart with Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso STR7 and the Lotus of Kimi R�ikk�nen also breaking the 100 barrier.
Tuesday pace-setter R�ikk�nen's eagerness did get the better of him on Wednesday with two ventures off the Jerez track, while a change to his steering rack disrupted part of his day.
'There was a small issue with damage to the floor this morning when I went off and came back on to the circuit,' admitted R�ikk�nen. 'An edge on a kerb caused the damage and we lost some time as it was repaired. Apart from that it was a good day and we completed some long runs and good mileage.
'Physically I felt fine. Conditions were quite windy but despite this I got a better feeling from the car. There was a lot of difference between the tyres…when the tyres are working we seem to have a good car and I have a positive feeling from this first test. '
Newly signed reserve driver Giedo van der Garde gets his first taste of Caterham's CT01 on Thursday before Jarno Trulli completes the opening test of the winter on Friday.
Romain Grosjean takes over the Hethel-backed Lotus hot seat from R�ikk�nen on Thursday for the final two days of testing in Jerez.