Max Verstappen says Red Bull’s 2020 Formula 1 car is “definitely an improvement” but needs to be strong over both one lap and race distances.

Verstappen and Red Bull are hoping to mount a title challenge to reigning champions Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in 2020 with its RB16 challenger, and has enjoyed a strong start winter test programme so far.

The Dutchman ended the opening day of the second pre-season test at Barcelona second in the timesheets but brought out a late red flag when he stopped on track with just minutes left on the clock.

“This year the car is definitely an improvement, and it also has to be if you want to fight for the championship,” Verstappen said.

“It needs to be both [good in race and qualifying]. Even last year sometimes we had a decent race car, sometimes qualifying was okay but I think overall we need to step up, and we are working on that.

“You do push it with whatever on the car, which feels all right for the moment,” he added.

“But it is difficult to say anything about it because you don’t know if it is going to be quick enough, and at the end of the day you don’t look at it yet, because it is just testing and a different track to where the first race is.

"So what is the most important is that you just try a lot of things, and you know what the car is reacting to, and when you go to Melbourne you know a little bit if you have oversteer or understeer what direction you have to go into.

“We just focus on ourselves, and then will find out in Melbourne where we are.”

Asked how close he feels Red Bull are to having a car he wants for Melbourne, Verstappen replied: “I have no clue, I hope not far but at the moment it is difficult to say because it is a completely different track as well.

“So whatever works here it is not a guarantee that it is going to work in Melbourne.

“It is all about driving a lot of laps and trying some things on the car so you know what direction you have to go into.”

Verstappen also downplayed his bizarre late stoppage at the end of the afternoon session after he spun for the second time on Wednesday at Turn 10

“It was not planned, that is for sure,” he explained.

"But I don’t know what happened yet. The car will come back and will look at it.”