Verstappen encouraged by Red Bull race pace
Max Verstappen said Red Bull exceeded his expectations on Sunday in Melbourne, leaving him cautiously optimistic about the team's prospects for the opening races in 2017.
The Dutchman had predicted a lonely race in which he would be unable to keep pace with either Mercedes or Ferrari - but in the event, he finished just a few seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen, having shadowed the Finn for the duration of the season-opening Grand Prix.
"I'm still a bit surprised that I was quite close to Kimi," Verstappen said after the race.
I just feel bad for everyone, the fans. I'm sure they would have loved me to get out and race.
"I think the car behaved quite a bit better in the race than in qualifying. It's difficult to say how much [Red Bull still trail Mercedes and Ferrari], but it looked a lot better in the race.
"The race was a lot more positive than qualifying; I'm happy about that.
"We still need to improve, and we will - and we'll see what happens in the next few races."
While Verstappen finished fifth, team mate Daniel Ricciardo suffered a string of misfortunes as a gearbox sensor issue forced him to start from the pit lane two laps into the race, before a separate engine problem prompted his retirement.
"Obviously I'm disappointed today, but I'll wake up tomorrow and prepare for China," Ricciardo said. "It's been a long week.
"Don’t get me wrong it's been fun, I just feel bad for everyone, the fans. I'm sure they would have loved me to get out and race.
"If I look on bright side, the positive was that Max seemed to have relatively good pace - so maybe we can learn from his race pace and as a team move forward."