Mercedes power has given Lotus a noticeable boost for 2015 and is well placed to make big strides over 2014
LotusRomain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado

It is a case of the same, but different over at Lotus as it looks to hit the 'reset' button and return itself to the forefront of the action in 2015.

Gone is the Renault power unit and the unusual fork-nose, in comes the dependable Mercedes engine and a more conventional chassis design. Though it wouldn't be hard to improve upon a dismal 2014 of reliability issues, underpowered engines and persistent set-up woes, it's easy to forget just how far the team fell last year and the task it faces to get back to the front.

Though its financial struggles have been well documented, Lotus has always done a lot with a little, and pre-season testing has shown there is a glimmer at the end of this tunnel. The car has proven swift with Mercedes power behind it and the smiles on Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado's faces speak more volumes than perhaps their words do.

There wasn't a single uncompetitive Mercedes-powered team in 2015 and Lotus seems to be at the bottom of the problems that hampered it last year, so it isn't unreasonable to assume it is probably the 'fifth' team behind Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull based on testing, while the drivers have hinted that they aren't far adrift from making the 'best of the rest' behind the Stuttgart marque a four-way.

In conclusion... It looks neat and it goes quickly... Lotus seem best positioned to 'pull a Williams' in 2015.

Sauber comes into 2015 with a more competitive car but question marks over its driver line-up
SauberTBC

At the time of writing, Sauber remains embroiled in an increasingly bitter court case with former reserve driver Giedo van der Garde over seemingly reneging on a deal to give him an F1 drive for 2015.

With the driver situation unresolved as it stands, we can only focus on the ability of the C34 at this stage, which for what it is worth, at least appears to be a marked improvement over its predecessor.

With more grunt from the Ferrari engine and a better-sorted chassis, though Sauber has a reputation for flattering to deceive a bit in testing, it appears this is a car capable of snaring the odd points, which is at least an improvement over 2014.

It remains to be seen whether it will be van der Garde, Marcus Ericsson or Felipe Nasr that will be forming the driver line-up, but the latter two have at least shown themselves to be more or less on the pace.

Unfortunately for a team that has survived for a long time on a relative budget, the outcome of its driver situation - whichever way it is decided - is almost certainly going to cost it financially...

In conclusion... Another point-less season seems less likely for Sauber, though the musical chairs only stands to hurt it in the long run...

From the ashes of administration rises the phoenix of Manor F1 and its belated 2015 F1 bid
Manor-MarussiaWill Stevens, Roberto Merhi

Perhaps the most unexpected development over the winter - predominantly because there are many people that still don't quite expect it to happen -, was Manor F1's rise from the ashes of administration.

Though the project has raised more questions than answers, the bare facts are that Manor will use an updated 2014-specification car with a 2014-specification Ferrari power unit, as driven by Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi in Australia.

No-one is predicting miracles here. The car may be familiar but it hasn't turned a wheel in its current guise and even then the chassis-engine combination was well off the pace in 2014, even before you consider Stevens and Merhi aren't bringing much experience to the party.

Still, perhaps struggling along for the time being with a dated car will be more beneficial than rushing out a 2015 model, which is expected to be ready for Europe, at least to give Stevens (Merhi is on a one-race deal for the time being) some track time. Who knows, maybe reliability will make its presence felt... maybe there is an unlikely miracle at the end of this story...

In conclusion... A finish will be seen as a triumph... not that we have seen the car at all yet.