Max Verstappen says Ferrari have out-developed Red Bull in 2019, but the Dutchman remains confident that 2020 could bring a title challenge.
Verstappen entered F1's summer break as the form driver on the grid, having won in Austria and Germany as well as securing his maiden pole position in Hungary, where victory was snatched away by Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages.
However, things have not gone to plan since then and Verstappen has been on the podium just once in the five grands prix since racing resumed, with DNFs in Belgium and Japan leaving him behind Charles Leclerc in the standings and level on points with Sebastian Vettel.
The Ferrari pair have been rejuvenated in that time period, with a red car on pole position in each of those five races and winning three of them after an upgrade package was introduced to unlock the pace the SF90 has held all season.
Verstappen told Yahoo Sports: "We've not improved as much as we would have liked but then when you compare us to Mercedes it's not like we are massively off. But we definitely haven't improved compared to Ferrari.
"We just need to keep working hard to try and improve and try to learn for next year as well, and from the engine side, we can still do a better job. Everyone knows that. It's not a secret, and we all want that.
"It's not that now I have said it, everyone in the team is shocked. Everybody has that same desire to improve.
"Of course, I didn't expect to fight for the championship this year. It's not a realistic target when you work with a new partner unless it's a proven partner over a long period of time.
"We have been very much in a building phase together to try and maximise the potential. We have seen glimpses of it so now it's about trying to put it all together for next year."
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.