Pastor Maldonado believes he must be close to finding his first points of 2015 season after another difficult start to an F1 campaign.

While the now Mercedes-powered Lotus team appears to be in better competitive e shape than it was with Renault engines last season, and team-mate Romain Grosjean underlining the point with back-to-back seventh place finishes in China and Bahrain, Maldonado remains mercurial - although his efforts haven't always foundered by his own hand.

Three straight retirements were followed by a fraught 15th in Sakhir, a finish blighted by a poor qualifying effort that perhaps led to him over-driving in the early stages. Two first lap spins and a collision with Felipe Massa's Williams shortly afterwards left the Venezuelan fighting a losing battle - even before he accidentally killed his engine at the final pit-stop...

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"It was a complicated start to the season, the first four races were tough," he says with some understatement, "It wasn't easy to be hit by other drivers in both Australia and Malaysia, [but] I think we learnt a lot from the first two races as we made a good jump in performance by the Chinese Grand Prix. We are closer to our rivals, the teams we're targeting for the championship, and our race pace has improved significantly, so it's getting better and better."

Having endured a tough 2014 campaign, in which he only added points towards the end of F1's world tour, Maldonado knows that he has the machinery under him to make more of an impact in 2015.

"It's a good car," he says of the E23, "Immediately, the first day we tested the E23, the potential was clearly there. There are still areas to develop, but it's looking very good.

"If we go back just a few months ago, to where we were with the E22, it's a huge improvement in comparison. It's not just the change of engine, the chassis is working much better. The entire package has good potential for this season."

With a gap still to close on the likes of Williams and Red Bull in the battle to lead the pursuit of Mercedes and Ferrari, Lotus will have had - like its rivals - three weeks between Bahrain and next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix to work on the next wave of upgrades for the E23, with Maldonado in Enstone to put the ideas through their paces on the simulator.

"It's very important," he admits, "We start with a debrief in a way, where we compare the simulator runs with the race we have just completed, to make sure that the information we get from the sim is as accurate as possible. If not, we work to make it more realistic, and if it's okay, we move on to testing various things for the next races."

And, while his dream is still to repeat the famous Barcelona win he took for Williams back in 2012, Maldonado insists that he will be content to simply get the monkey off his back and finish in the top ten next weekend.

"The aim is always to get 100 per cent from the package, to know we've achieved the best possible," he concludes, "A win might not be on the cards just yet, but we are definitely able to fight for good points."