Fairuz Fauzy took part in his first proper Formula 1 test today, with the honour of taking the new Lotus T127 onto track for its official F1 debut.
The 27-year-old Malaysian completed 79 laps and finished the day 11th quickest. Afterwards he talked AUTOSPORT through his, and the team's, trouble-free run
Q. Was that a good first day?
Fairuz Fauzy: It was a difficult first day for all of us. It was a great challenge, thank God the car is reliable. We managed to get through without any problems. It was a good day for me, of course it's a big challenge. For me and for the team, the objective was to put some mileage on the car, and for me to do mileage for the superlicence test.
We had just the small issue of the car without power steering, so it was a challenge for me - but that's part of my job so I just need to get my head round it and get on with it. It was very tough because I couldn't push in high-speed corners, but there's no point pushing the car when it's not 100 per cent.
To me, the objective was to put as many miles to see the reliability and cooling. So far, the car and the team have done a great job. It's a great effort for them. It's a new team but some people from F1 in the past, to have a new car built in five months and compete in its first test is amazing, it's a great achievement.
Q. How do the arms and shoulders feel after 79 laps with no power steering?
FF: To be honest, it was very painful, torture. But I just wanted to keep my head down. In the wet it's not so much, so I was praying for wet. In the wet it's less effort compared to the dry. When it's dry you have more grip, more rubber on the track, higher speed, more contact of the tyres creates a heavier steering wheel.
In the wet it was a bit more heavy than GP2, but you can still drive. In the dry it was very difficult for me to cope. I am glad now it's over. They are flying in the power steering tonight so tomorrow hopefully we will see it.
Q. Was the power steering not ready in time?
FF: It was ready, it just wasn't on time from the supplier to get it here. At least it is Heikki to drive the car so he can see if the power steering is working as he's used to. We have the test coming up at Barcelona, which is probably one of the most physical tracks, so we'll see how it goes there.
Q. How hard was it to get a feel for the car today, given the changeable conditions?
FF: I was very impressed with the car. There's a lot of potential. I was a bit unlucky without the power steering, if it's there I'm sure I can find another three or four seconds at least. The car feels very balanced and I think we have achieved a step forward, I was very progressive, driving 75 per cent. I was not pushing, there's no point with no power steering, and I was controlling my energy as well because there were a lot of laps to do.
I got a taste of the tyres with the weather changing, intermediate, wet and slick. So it was a good experience to understand the tyres, especially the front now it's narrower. It was useful and the team was very pleased because there's a lot of data to gain out of it.
Q. How is the atmosphere in the team today?
FF: This is part of a family. If you want to achieve what you want, you have to work like a family. The team is very composed, very cool, everyone knows what they're doing and is very dedicated to their own work, and that is showing in the car. This morning I was very impressed, there was no single failure at all. We expected to have a bit of problems but none so far, after the shakedown we saw a bit and know how to improve it.
Q. How was it for you personally? Your first proper day as a Formula 1 driver?
FF: I can't believe it. It was a good experience. I always wanted to race with Michael, he was my idol since I was a kid. It's amazing. It's a shame because I've got no experience, I'm being very sensible, I don't want to make a mistake. When the car is at 100 per cent is the time I need to push. The team wants to gain as much as possible, just to do more laps and to gain 200km.
Schumacher is my idol and soon he's going to be my rival. It's good to race against the experienced guys and world champions like Lewis and Massa, it's amazing to be with them at the same time. I tried to follow Michael and up to Turn 2 I was very close. At Turn 3 I had no power steering so I said 'it's all yours'.
Now we can start moving forward and at Barcelona we will move into the real race programme.
Q. Is there much of a rivalry between you and Virgin as the two new teams currently running?
FF: Of course, not just Virgin but we want to be the best of all the new teams. We aim to be the best new team in the first season, if we can beat the midfield as well that's a bonus and a big achievement for us. You need to be realistic, but with the regulations this year anything is possible. With no refuelling it's all about tyre management and the drivers, how they cope with the tyres and the driving style.
I think this year we're going to see a great challenge for all the drivers. It's like a new era with Formula 1 with the drivers as well, coming from GP2 and other series. I think this year you're going to see more crowd than ever, everywhere - Michael's fans, Lotus fans.
We want to continue the legacy, we are here to win. But to win we need to complete the programme and that takes some time. We want to work and achieve that process faster, without failure.
Q. What are you guys expecting from the weather in the next couple of days?
FF: Looking at the forecast it's difficult to tell. Yesterday it said it would be wet [today] and now we have a bit of dry and a bit of wet, some dry track time. We might have a chance to have some good, dry test days at Barcelona. But the weather is cooler than Bahrain, so that will be a challenge not just for us but for all teams.