"Shall we go to the chicane? It's not a fast corner, but it's good because you can see the car on the brakes, on change of direction and grip," asks Jerome d'Ambrosio.
It's good idea, for while the fast corners tend to be the ones where the cars look most dramatic as a spectacle, the run through the right-left-right chicane, named after Ayrton Senna, tells you far more about the cars. So at the Lotus reserve driver's suggestion, we head to the exit of the complex to take a look at the 2012 challengers in the middle of the afternoon.
We take up position at the chicane, eager to see how the cars behave over the kerbs and bump where the new section of track meets the old. Sebastian Vettel is at the wheel of the Red Bull RB8 and he's the first thing that catches the eye.
"If your car is right, when you look at the data this chicane should look like one corner, not three," says d'Ambrosio. "Once you brake for the left-hander and turn in, you should be able to progressively feed in the throttle through the rest of the corner. For a very good car, it's one corner, for a bad one, three corners."
As if to illustrate the point, Vettel flashes past doing a pretty good approximation of the former. The car looks untroubled by this section and the German can feed in the throttle with the minimum of adjustment.
Sebastian Vettel's RB8 looked very settled through the chicane... © LAT
"Look at how much kerb he can take," says d'Ambrosio. "He didn't even try to avoid the kerb and the car doesn't get unsettled. It slid a little bit, but it's all balanced and you don't see oversteer or
understeer. It's all four wheels even when he takes a lot of kerb.
"It's very hard to make a judgement because of the different programmes they run, but certainly the car looks good. It's impressive to watch. "
Fortunately for d'Ambrosio, there is plenty to be encouraged about in his own camp. Although the track is a little quiet, Romain Grosjean, fastest of the 2012 specification machines, is also out on track. Like Vettel, he's on a long run and the car looks very well-poised. While Grosjean has to work a bit harder at the wheel and be a little less liberal with the amount of kerb he tries to steal than Vettel, it looks good.
"In the left part, Vettel goes from left to right in one move," says d'Ambrosio. "He doesn't have to correct the move. Romain has the car moving a little bit and then he does it, but he is on a long run so that is fine. You can see a little bit of movement from Romain but the Red Bull doesn't do it and our car handles well already. Then again, we can't compare the fuel because we don't know. If one is running 40kg and another 80kg, it makes a massive difference."
Inevitably, d'Ambrosio chooses his words very carefully when he's talking about the Lotus E20, but it's clearly a machine that a driver can work with. Certainly, Grosjean deals easily with any small corrections and still carries very good speed out of the final right-hand section of the chicane.
After a few laps of watching the Red Bull and the Lotus, as well as Nico Rosberg in the 2011 Mercedes, which provides a useful yardstick in terms of a well-sorted car, several others join the fray. Jean-Eric Vergne suffers with a little bit of oversteer when trying to feed in the power in the Toro Rosso, but nothing too serious, while Sergio Perez's Sauber looks very planted, albeit helped by fresh rubber.
The McLaren, in the hands of Lewis Hamilton, has a very familiar feel to it. The car stays planted enough as he feeds in the power, although it seems that the MP4-27 shares its predecessor's characteristic of requiring a pretty stiff suspension setup for its aero to work. In the final left-hand section of the chicane, he clouts the kerb and, while the car rides it reasonably well, it does cost a little momentum on the exit. But there doesn't appear to be anything to get too worried about here.
...while Bruno Senna's Williams FW34 was more of a handful © LAT
Eyebrows are raised when the FW34 completes its first few laps. Bruno Senna is visibly struggling in the chicane and seems unable to apply much throttle without the rear misbehaving.
"It took the kerb and instead of moving together with the rest of the car, he had to back off the throttle," says d'Ambrosio. "You can see a big difference and you can hear him backing off on the throttle. You can really see that the front and the rear are not working together. You don't know what fuel level he is on but the Williams doesn't look that good.
"He turns in and then tries to feed the power in to the second apex and he has to back off again. He's on and off the power, which is not what you want to see."
As for Ferrari, we don't even see Fernando Alonso on track after hydraulic problems cut short his day. But it's fair to say that it is unlikely to have made a great impression given the amount of work the team has admitted it still has to do.
Of course, all of this is a phoney war, such are the myriad variables of testing, as d'Ambrosio is keen to stress.
"You never know where you are in testing," he says. "You do know after 10 or even five laps if it's well-balanced or vicious, but we won't really know until we get to Melbourne."
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