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‘We will not win a race with the new Honda engine’ – Verstappen

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Max Verstappen has played down his chances of winning this weekend’s 2019 season opener.

His boss, Dr Helmut Marko, has been ramping up the Dutchman’s hopes, predicting “five wins” this year and a potential tilt at the world championship.

But at an event in Japan prior to heading to Australia, Max said: “We will not win a race straight away with the new Honda engine.

“But we need to be up the front,” Verstappen is quoted by Blick newspaper.

Red Bull has switched from customer Renault to works Honda power for 2019, and the team says it is delighted with how the new collaboration is going.

“The long runs we did in testing looked pretty promising,” Verstappen said. “So we are hoping to be competitive from the start.

“I also think we have a good package overall, but this weekend we will really see where we are and whether we have closed the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.”

Marko said: “The Honda engine is getting better and more reliable.

“Toro Rosso did good groundwork for us in 2018. And the Japanese give everything, working day and night.

“I still think we are about two tenths per lap behind Ferrari, and just ahead of Mercedes,” he added.

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