Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that his new car, the Lotus T127, is worse than the Minardi he tested more than six years ago.
Minardi chief Paul Stoddart gave the then 22-year-old Finn a two-day test at Vallelunga in late 2003 and nearly signed him to race.
When asked by Finland's Turun Sanomat to compare the Minardi with the Lotus, fielded by the new Malaysian backed team in 2010, Kovalainen answered: "It's difficult because the tires are so different.
"But the Lotus is probably missing more aerodynamically than the Minardi cars (were) when you compare them with the top (cars)."
At the end of 2003, the Minardis were regularly 5 seconds off the pace of the leaders, while Kovalainen's teammate Jarno Trulli said last weekend that he thinks the T127 is about four seconds behind.
Kovalainen was nearly 5 seconds behind when the 2010 pre-season came to a close at Barcelona on Sunday.
But in 2010, there is more parity between teams in terms of engine and tire performance, meaning the differences in lap time is substantially due to the chassis.
Kovalainen, now 28, admitted that Lotus' "biggest problem" currently is aerodynamics.
To Turun Sanomat, he also rued his pre-season preparations, revealing that he has "never gone into a season with less testing".
Team boss Tony Fernandes thinks Lotus has progressed well this winter.
"We reckon we will be 3.5 seconds off the fastest car (in Bahrain), an improvement of 5 seconds from Jerez. We keep chipping away," he said.