Red Bull boss Christian Horner says having assessed the genuine race pace of the front-runner he believes his team has on average a half-second deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari but has confidence in closing to gap.

With genuine race pace obscured during winter pre-season testing and the free practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix, the pecking order with the new F1 technical regulations didn't become clear until the 2017 season opener where Horner concedes Red Bull were the third quickest car in the race.

Despite the deficit Horner remains unflustered having seen Max Verstappen push Kimi Raikkonen for fourth place for the entire race in Melbourne as all teams get to grips with the new F1 cars.

"I don't think we're that far behind. With Mercedes I think we have about half a second to find," Horner said. "Ferrari have been very impressive and probably had the quickest car in Australia.

"We probably had the third quickest car here and we've got to find a good half-second to get into the fight ahead. Max was pushing Kimi hard all race but we didn't have the pace of Vettel or Hamilton.

"I think it is still early days and the regulations are still very immature. We've chosen a different concept and I believe there is really good potential for development with our concept. I'm sure we can build on this in the next couple of races."

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Horner also gave a warning shot to Red Bull's rivals as neither Verstappen or team-mate Daniel Ricciardo could demonstrate the full potential of the RB13 in Australia and if things go the team's way at the Chinese Grand Prix the deficit could rapidly swing.

"The problem is the cars seem quite sensitive in dirty air, for Max we didn't see his true potential in clean air," he said. "I felt that we had Kimi's pace today but I think we have a half-second to find at this track to be on terms with the cars ahead.

"It is the usual suspects and looking at the amount of notes Adrian Newey is taking away I am sure he is going to be pretty busy."

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