Max Verstappen has openly admitted Red Bull has lost the least in terms of performance compared to last year as a result of F1’s floor changes for 2021.

For this season, F1 made changes to the floor area in a bid to slow the cars down amid concerns 2020’s cars were reaching speeds and downforce levels Pirelli’s tyres couldn’t cope with.

As a consequence, cars that have a high rake philosophy such as Red Bull and AlphaTauri appear to have benefited from the rule changes, while Mercedes and Aston Martin, who adopt a low rake have gone backwards relative to last year.

Going into this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Verstappen trails Lewis Hamilton by a single point in the drivers' championship after winning at Imola last time out.

“I’m happy with what we have with the RB16B, it’s faster, it has more grip and better balance,” Verstappen said. “We lost downforce with the floor, but I think we lost a bit less than other teams and it shows that we made a good step forward.

“We’re starting the season strong, the best we’ve had since I’ve been with the team. It’s a long season, and if we want to fight for the championship, we have to keep improving.”

As he looks to take the win at Portimao this weekend, Verstappen also revealed his change in mindset for this year and how it’s different now he has a car capable of challenging for regular pole positions and race victories.

“I am looking forward to going back to Portugal, we were on the podium there last year and I think we have a better car now so I’m looking forward to extracting everything we can from the car and have a bit of fun out there,'' Verstappen added. 

“Every race weekend so far, we’ve really felt that there is a chance to win, it feels like a different mindset now when you know you can fight for pole.

“We’ve definitely learnt a lot over the years, I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.  It won’t be easy but we are going to do everything we can to stay in the fight this season.”

Sergio Perez failed to convert his front-row starting position into a podium finish in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Despite his poor race at Imola, Perez’s motivation remains “sky high”.

“The motivation is sky high,” Perez said. “The way we work at Red Bull, we prepare our race weekend to take the maximum from it because we know if we do everything right we have a realistic chance of winning the race.

“Everyone in the team is also pushing really hard to try to improve the RB16B so we can maximise every single weekend with both cars – that’s the target. Imola was a missed opportunity as I think we should have finished 1-2 but hopefully, we can achieve that this weekend.”