Max Verstappen says that Red Bull's race pace during pre-season testing "looks promising" as the team prepares for a new era with Honda.
The energy drink squad dropped Renault engines at the end of 2018 to start a new partnership with Honda, who spent the 2018 campaign with Red Bull's junior squad Toro Rosso.
Red Bull's pre-season testing programme was met with a few obstacles as Pierre Gasly crashed the RB15 on multiple occasions, with one occurring on the penultimate day of running, which hampered Verstappen's final day in the car on Friday.
However, the Dutchman is pleased with the long-run pace of the car, but says that its true potential won't be known until the season gets underway.
"We’ll see on Saturday [in Melbourne]," he said. "Hopefully, on Sunday we’ll be there. If we look to the longer runs, it looks all pretty promising, so yeah, I’m looking forward to start racing now.
“I think we have a pretty good package, and also the engine seems to work really well. So I’m really happy about that.”
Early suggestions are that Ferrari and Mercedes are once again the picks of the field, having contended for the title over the last two seasons. While admitting that they look quick, Verstappen says he is not too worried about the performance of his rivals.
"They are always going to be quick,” Verstappen commented. “It’s always difficult to say if we haven’t done a run like they did but I’m not too worried about it.
“They are very quick, but I’m happy with what we’ve done so far. The long run pace we had was very promising, but Melbourne is a different track again, different temperatures, so it’ll be about finding a good set-up."
Speaking about the Honda engine, Verstappen was left impressed by its performance over the last two weeks: “It was always a question mark for many people how it would perform,” he said.
“But what we saw already from dyno testing and then again here on track, it was very reliable and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. So I’m very happy about that.
“In Melbourne, we see where we are. We’ll keep pushing hard to improve like everyone else, but so far not too much to complain about.”