Feb.10 (GMM) After step noses and clever exhausts, the latest buzzword in the Jerez paddock is 'Lotus'.
The former Renault team is turning heads with its new black and gold E20 car, which has been consistently the quickest 2012 car throughout the opening test of the pre-season.
"I am one of the happiest guys in the world right now," said Romain Grosjean on Thursday after easily outpacing Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.
The reigning GP2 champion was also quicker than the 2012 McLaren, steered for the first time on Thursday by Lewis Hamilton.
"The Lotus looks quite impressive," said Briton Hamilton.
Drawing conclusions based on test results is an unreliable practice, but the body language in the Lotus garage so far is confident.
"At the moment they are quicker and more consistent.
"For the first test it looks good," team boss Eric Boullier admitted to Finnish broadcaster MTV3, "but still you can't really speculate on anything.
"Between here and Melbourne, all the cars will change a lot.
"It is true that today we have a good car, we are able to drive a lot of laps and that is why we are at the front," he added.
After watching the action trackside from a corner, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport that the E20 is "a missile with an incredible amount of grip".
"The Red Bull and the Lotus make the best impression," agreed 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, who is also at Jerez.
Hamilton described Grosjean's best time - 1.18.4 - as "good", while Red Bull's Webber wanted to know what compound of Pirelli tyre was fitted to the Lotus.
Told it was the medium, the Australian admitted: "Then it was a very good lap."
Grosjean smiled: "The car is easy to drive and predictable everywhere, especially in the fast corners, and when you go over the limit it is easy to get back."
Said Webber: "If Grosjean can do those laptimes then we will all have to watch Kimi (Raikkonen)."