Lotus’ Kimi R�ikk�nen tops opening Formula One test times in Jerez

Kimi R�ikk�nen announced his return to Formula One by topping the first winter testing time sheets of the year for Norfolk's Lotus marque in Jerez.

The Finn and 2007 champion – returning after two years away from F1 – clocked one minute 19.670 seconds on the first of four days at the Spanish circuit, and the first opportunity for this year's grid to get some real laps into their new cars.

Reading anything into winter testing is notoriously fraught – but that won't worry those at Enstone too much, as Hethel-backed Lotus' E20 and a clearly pumped R�ikk�nen finished ahead of Force India's Paul di Resta and the 2011 Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

That said, the Finn was remaining focused on ironing out any potential issues with his Lotus – the team having ditched their Renault tag after last season – rather than his lap times in Jerez.

'It was a positive first day of testing and everything went almost to plan,' said R�ikk�nen. 'We had no major issues and I got a good feel for the car and the tyres. The tyres were more of a challenge in the afternoon when we ran with a scrubbed set, but overall it was a positive day.

'The lap times don't matter today. I'm happy with the balance of the car, which feels good, and the fact that we didn't have any major issues. Also, I did more than a race distance today and did not have any physical problems at all, which is good. I'm looking forward to making further progress with the car.'

R�ikk�nen completed 73 laps on Tuesday – Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber topped that particular statistic with 106.

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Technical director James Allison said: 'Overall it was a very promising day in terms of reliability and it gives us a good springboard for the rest of the test. The steering is slightly heavy for his liking at the moment, but we already have a different steering rack being completed which he will use in the next test Barcelona test.'

Trackside operations director Alan Permane added: 'It's always nice to be top of the time sheets but the main encouraging factor from today is the car's reliability; apart from a small Kers problem this afternoon it was faultless.'

R�ikk�nen completes his Jerez running in the E20 on Wednesday before handing the car over to team-mate Romain Grosjean for Thursday and Friday.