Pastor Maldonado has set Lotus a lofty target heading into the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship season as the team looks to bounce back from a dismal campaign in 2014.

The team - which won races in 2012 and 2013 - laboured to eighth in the overall standings in 2014 as it struggled with persistent set-up problems on the E22 and an uncompetitive Renault engine.

For 2015, Lotus has opted for a more conventional chassis design for its E23 and signed up to use Mercedes power units this time, a move that has seemingly reaped immediate dividends in testing in the hands of drivers Maldonado and Romain Grosjean.

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Indeed, Maldonado is confident Lotus has a considerably more competitive car this year and though it doesn't mean he expects to be challenging Mercedes for wins, he feels the chasing pack - headed up by Williams - is within range.

"If we are to improve the car over Mercedes we need a miracle! We don't expect to be at the level of the Mercedes. It is about a lot of different things. To make the gap smaller when it already is so big you need to have lots of money, more people. We are competing against a more powerful team than us so we need to make different targets.

"I think behind Mercedes the group is getting more compact. At the moment I see Williams at the head of the group but not that far away. Then there is a mix of Red Bull, Ferrari, us and maybe Force India because although they are new they look good already. It is quite interesting. The package we have this year is much better than last year. Compared to the others we will have to wait and see."

Maldonado says improvements in Lotus' pace has come across the board, not just the engine, though he warns the Malaysia Grand Prix later this month may give a better clue of ultimate form.

"The engine made the chassis different so it is half and half. Aerodynamically we've been improving the rear of the car much better than last year and front of the car has changed a lot for us. It is interesting because it feels better and the engine is better, but we still need to improve the downforce and set-up. We will know exactly what needs to improve after the first two races of the season and ahead of the European part of the season.

"Even after the first race we can't be sure where we are because the track isn't so good for testing but maybe after Malaysia with the heat will give us more information. I hope to be inside the top 10. How far I do not know."