Max Verstappen accepts Red Bull Honda still has performance to find if it can fight for Formula 1 race wins but believes “time will tell” if that target is achievable this season.

Following a bright start to the new Red Bull Honda partnership, culminating in Verstappen’s podium in Melbourne beating both Ferrari cars at the 2019 opener, the Dutch driver was instantly quizzed about whether his team can target the top step of the rostrum earlier than expected.

With a Honda-powered car taking its first F1 podium since Rubens Barrichello reached the rostrum at the 2008 British Grand Prix, Verstappen feels time is needed before he thinks Red Bull can hunt wins but remains optimistic thanks to his strong start to 2019.

“I think in terms of speed we had throughout the race, it was again a very good step forward to last year,” Verstappen said. “If I just compare top speeds against the other two top teams, so I’m very pleased for that.

“Also, in general, the engine has been performing really well, without any issues. So, that is also very important. I guess time will tell if we can fight for top spot.

“In general, just very pleased, because I could at least have a go at it, in terms of top speed. Good progress, and there are a lot of positive things coming as well, and so far we have been working really well together. Very pleased with that.”

Despite his optimism, Verstappen accepts plenty of work remains ahead of his team given he finished 22.5 seconds behind Australian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes and a circuit not so dependent on outright power and top speed.

“I think Valtteri was very far ahead still,” he said. “It was a good result but we have to work hard to improve.”

Driver Ratings - Australia GP

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