Ross Brawn feels if Red Bull’s form at the start of the 2017 Formula 1 world championship had been at the same standard since after the summer break then both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo could have been title contenders.

The Formula 1 managing director has given credit to Red Bull’s late season rival which has seen Verstappen win in Malaysia plus five additional rostrum results between the Dutch driver and Ricciardo since the Belgium Grand Prix – including the team’s first consecutive double podiums in the V6 hybrid era.

Brawn went as far as to say the Milton Keynes-based team would be title contenders had it achieved similar results at the start of the season before it lost significant ground to Mercedes and Ferrari.

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“This year has once again confirmed the Milton Keynes squad’s recent tendency to get the best from its package in the second part of the season,” Brawn said in a Formula 1 media release. “If this was the early phase of the championship, then Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo might be considered serious title contenders.

“But that's out of the question because of the early-season performance gap the team suffered.

“The team has done an excellent job in building performance across the season and for everyone involved I’m sure there’s a hint of ‘what if’ about this season.”

Brawn points to the Renault power unit as the main reason which has denied the team a sustained title challenge while reliability has also been another concern but he feels strong gains have been made since the summer break. Between Ricciardo and Verstappen the pair have failed to finish four races so far this year directly due to engine reliability problems.

“There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this, including a power deficit, the time needed to mitigate that through other development opportunities, and obviously the efforts made to address that power deficit by the team’s supplier,” he said. “For the whole team I’m sure there’s something a little bittersweet in the team’s recent form.”