McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes it would be “optimistic” to think McLaren can regularly challenge Red Bull in 2019.
Carlos Sainz put heavy pressure on P4-finisher Max Verstappen in the early stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix before the pair clashed, while rookie Lando Norris finished the race P6, ahead of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.
However, Brown doesn’t believe the team will be a regular threat to the Austrian outfit or any of the top three.
“I think that will probably be optimistic,” he told Motorsport.com.
“I was pleasantly surprised we were as close to them at the weekend. But I think we still feel there is a big gap to the top three, and I don’t think this weekend changes our views.”
Brown also believes the tight midfield pack means McLaren’s results will fluctuate from race-to-race.
But, he also feels that their rivals have a driver “divide”, something that will help his eight-time Constructors’ Championship-winning team put together a strong campaign.
“We definitely feel we had a made a step but it is close in the midfield,” he said. “There is just nothing between fourth and ninth.
“I still think there will be weekends where we are the fourth/fifth quickest team and other weekends where we are eighth/ninth quickest team. So far we have been near the fourth/fifth in qualifying and race pace, but I think it will be track specific.
“You need the team to execute well but on the drivers we are really pleased with how Carlos and Lando are on it.
“If you look at some of the other teams, some of them have a divide between their drivers, so when it is such a close race everything is going to count.
“I am really pleased we have the two drivers we have, because that can make a difference in the team Championship. So for us it’s just head down and we’ve got to keep working hard because it is a development war.”