Max Verstappen WILL be F1 title threat – but Red Bull ace won't show it until THIS race

That’s according to Johnny Herbert, who expects Verstappen and Red Bull to be more of a major player in Bahrain at the end of the month.

The 2019 season is underway with the first race of the season today in Melbourne (5.10am start UK time).

Conclusions drawn from pre-season testing suggested that Ferrari retain the edge on Mercedes while the gap between Red Bull and the front two was uncertain, but the team’s new Honda engine appeared impressive.

Verstappen struggled to keep pace with their two main rivals last season and Red Bull will hope that increased reliability from their new power unit and less driver errors can allow them to threaten the front two rows more frequently.

The highly-rated youngster qualified in fourth, 0.834secs behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen but just 0.130s off of third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull have watched Mercedes dominate since they won four straight titles themselves with Vettel. The Silver Arrows have won double championships in all of the last five years.

Milton Keynes-based Red Bull are desperate to catch up on Mercedes and in the ultra-attacking Verstappen have a young driver viewed as a future world champion.

Red Bull will hope the Dutchman can build on the two race wins he amassed in 2018 – having suffered a disappointing first few months in which he came under fire for several avoidable collisions.

And Sky Sports F1 pundit Herbert – himself an F1 driver for 11 years – is confident the 20-year-old can challenge Lewis Hamilton and Vettel at the front of the grid.

However, he thinks the Austrian-based outfit won’t truly show their level in Australia but will be at their best at the Bahrain Grand Prix in a fortnight.

“I think they’ve got a good chance of doing the job,” Herbert said of Red Bull’s prospects.

“They’ll be able to get four wins – in Mexico and Monaco no problem. 

“Then I think they’ll be able to add to that. 

“Seeing [Max’s father] Jos in Barcelona, he was very happy with the whole situation. 

“You look at Max’s demeanour, it’s a very positive feeling that seems to be coming out of the doors at Red Bull. 

“I think they could be a threat. 

“It may not start here, I think it will start when we get to Bahrain for example.”