Pastor Maldonado says he loves racing in Melbourne but feels the Australian Grand Prix will not be a fair gauge to measure where Lotus are in the recent Formula 1 pecking order.

The Lotus driver hails the race around Albert Park as one of the best of the season but feels because it is a city street circuit the race weekend throws up a lot more external difficulties than a purpose-built track.

"I love the track. The main challenges are that the track surface changes a lot over the weekend, especially from free practice to qualifying," the Venezuelan driver said. "The drivers and engineers need to try to predict how the track is going to evolve, especially for qualifying as this is crucial for the final position on Sunday.

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"Another challenge is the weather as you never know what it will do even during the course of each day.

"In terms of how the car performs, Albert Park is probably not the best gauge as it's not a permanent race track. Certainly, if we go well there we'll be happy, but if it doesn't go to plan then that won't be the end of the world as it's one of twenty races and it's a very distinct circuit."

The former race winner believes his Enstone-based team are firmly in the chasing pack behind the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, admitting the gap between the two groups is worryingly big. However, Maldonado is delighted that his team are streets ahead compared to last year thanks to both the Mercedes power unit and developments on the E23 Hybrid chassis.

"We're working hard to improve and we've seen that the reigning champions have set a very high standard with their 2015 car," he explained. "The difference between them and the rest of the field looks quite big after pre-season testing, but behind them the group is getting more compact. There should be a good mix of Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari and us which should make things interesting."

Lotus' last Formula 1 race victory came in Australia two years ago with Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel in the 2013 season opener. Maldonado says he adores the races which are close to the cities and the fans and expects this year's race to be more of the same.

"It's a great country and Melbourne is a wonderful city," he added. "I always love races that are close to the city because you have more people coming and it really feels like you are involved and part of their life for the short time you are there. There are all the benefits of the city to appreciate and the fans really get behind the event. It's maybe one of the best races of the year."