With all of the other teams on the grid, we have a decent chance of guessing exactly where they should be come the start of the season. McLaren excluded, Lotus are expected to be the real change as the new Mercedes deal alone should see them move towards the front of the grid. Force India are another team hoping that they can benefit from McLaren's expected slow start to move above them, having lost out on beating them to 5th in the constructors standings last year. Presuming then that the other teams ahead of McLaren in 2014 don't lose ground instead of gaining it, it could leave McLaren with only the Sauber and Toro Rosso teams behind them, along with Marussia (which will likely be called Manor if returning) and Caterham should they find financial backers.
New signing Fernando Alonso has already ruled out wins in 2015, though I expect that is a tactic to lower expectations ahead of the unknown. The Spaniard has joined from Ferrari in the pursuit of a team and car he feels will give him the platform to fight for a world championship once more. He is a driver that will give a team that push just with his presence, taking both Renault and his first spell at McLaren as examples of that. Button has been retained alongside him, an experience the team will be grateful for with the Honda's installation tasks. The pairing itself will be interesting to watch throughout 2015, with Alonso thoroughly beating Kimi Raikkonen in 2014, and Jenson Button giving Lewis Hamilton a harder time than people would have expected throughout the 3 years they were team mates.
It is clear than that there are many unknowns going into 2015 for both McLaren and Honda, so it certainly seems like they will be starting on the back foot. The team themselves will have a good idea of where they stand, and the pre-season tests will go some way in sharing that information with the public. Given the nature of all testing though, we will have to wait for the first qualifying session before we really know how well Honda have done in preparing their unit. The launch of the MP4-30 on Thursday is the most eagerly awaited of new machines, but Honda will hope it is not also the most over-rated.