Pastor Maldonado believes that the teams behind Mercedes in Formula 1 this season are closely-matched, with Lotus capable of fighting with Red Bull and Ferrari after a solid display in pre-season testing.
Following the switch to Mercedes power units for the 2015 season, Lotus has enjoyed a far better winter testing programme and appears to have made a step forwards in terms of both pace and reliability.
Maldonado has been buoyed by the E23 Hybrid’s form in pre-season, and thinks the field will be quite tight in 2015 behind the dominant Mercedes drivers.
“I think behind Mercedes, the group is getting more compact,” Maldonado explained. “At the moment I see Williams at the head of this group, but not far away to be honest.
“And then I see Red Bull, Ferrari, us, maybe Force India is coming because they are new for this week and they are looking quite good from what we can see. So it’s quite interesting.”
Maldonado is pleased with the mileage that Lotus has completed over the winter following a complete overhaul of the car for 2015.
“I’m quite happy,” Maldonado said. “I’m quite happy because we have a lot of mileage, we have different compounds run. It was very complete.
“Compared to last year it is completely different. Reliability, maybe we’ve reached the top which is quite positive. From now, we start to be more focused on the car performance and try to push for the rest of the season.
“Most of the teams have continued the project they had last year. For us, it was difficult. But we are gaining to a good point. We have very good mileage, nearly 4000km or something like that. It’s quite positive. I think we are much better prepared than last season.”
The 2015 Formula 1 season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix on March 15.