Max Verstappen fears that Mercedes-powered rivals will be a much tougher challenge for his Toro Rosso team in Bahrain than they were at the Australian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman and team-mate Carlos Sainz excelled at Albert Park in qualifying and could have grabbed a top-five finish in the race had the team opted for a different strategy.
But although the potential of the Ferrari-powered STR11 is clear, Verstappen thinks that the power demands of upcoming tracks like Bahrain will hand a bigger benefit to teams like Williams and Force India.
When asked by Motorsport.com where he thought Toro Rosso stacked up in the pecking order after Melbourne, he said: “We could have been P5 behind the Red Bull, so I think it's Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and then us.
“The Williams and the Force India, they were both not so strong in the race - but for sure they will become better, especially in Bahrain with the long straights.”
Verstappen thinks that the fight with Red Bull is especially close – because the Toro Rosso appears faster in qualifying trim but may not have the long-run pace of its sister team.
“We are not that fast compared to them on the straights. They are a lot of faster than us. I think we will be quite close.
“I think Bahrain will be a bit more difficult than Australia. But we will try to do our best and hopefully our car will work there again. “
Both Toro Rosso drivers were left frustrated after Australia when they saw the possibility of a big points haul slip from the team's grasp.
But Carlos Sainz is adamant that lessons will be learned and the team will do much better in races to come.
“Definitely, we were not happy as a team, as a group, because we knew that the pace was there to score higher than ninth and tenth,” he said. “This is 100 percent sure.
“It was a chaotic race, it was not simple to get it right. And we didn’t get it right.
“This is why we are now in this position but I’m convinced that it’s a one-off and that we can perform better in Bahrain, even though it’s not such a good track for us.”