Mumbai: Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan completed the first laps aboard the new HRT F112 at the Barcelona circuit ahead of its Formula One (F1) debut in Australia in less than two weeks.
Having passed all the mandatory crash tests last weekend, the Spanish squad was racing against time to put the car on track by taking advantage of 'filming day' regulations to shake down the new car.
Filming day regulations limit the running to 100 kilometres and only demo-spec Pirelli tyres are allowed, which bear very different characteristics compared to the normal racing rubber.
Despite these limitations, the team was able to ensure that the Cosworth-powered car functioned well from mechanical and aerodynamic standpoints.
Once out on the track, Karthikeyan's immediate objective was to ensure that all the systems were functioning appropriately and there were no major niggles.
"The first impressions are quite good; it is definitely a step up from last year," said Karthikeyan immediately after emerging out of the cockpit.
"We couldn't do any set-up work or stuff like that but everything seems to be working fine and there are no major problems, so we can look forward to the season now," he added.
Despite the fact that over 90 per cent of the HRT F1 staff has been freshly recruited, it was clear that the team is already at a level several notches higher compared to the last two years.
"Everyone has worked hard and the new team management has put everything together in a very short period of time," Karthikeyan said.
It has taken a lot of work, considering it was the first time that the team was able to run the new car before heading to the opening grand prix.
"We have a lot of experienced people in the team and everyone knows what they are doing. We're definitely heading in the right direction to progress throughout the season," said Karthikeyan.
"They've done a proper job with the car and I'm sure that it's a big step forward from last year, which is no mean feat since it is a clean-sheet design, compared to the Dallara chassis used for the last two years," he said.
The new F112 sports a longer wheelbase compared to last year's car, drivetrain from Williams and a rear pull rod suspension which features on most competitive cars on the grid.
"The baseline is already at a higher level, and having some running under our belt is indeed positive as we have some data to look at before we head to Australia (for the first race). It also felt good to be back in an F1 car, since I haven't been in the cockpit since last year's Indian GP."
However, Karthikeyan knows well that the toil is far from over. In fact it is just the opposite.
"We have a lot of work ahead as the season progresses - the first few flyaways (races outside Europe) will be critical as we'll have to find a stable, consistent level of performance to improve upon before heading to the European races," he said.
The F1 season kicks off on March 18 at the Albert Park circuit in Australia.