Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel believes Max Verstappen has gained "peace of mind" at the fact he is finally in the title hunt this season.
Despite regularly being at the front of the pack for a number of years, Verstappen's Monaco victory resulted in him leading the championship standings for the first time in his F1 career.
The Red Bull driver's four-point lead may only be a slender one, but Vettel warned that even at such an early stage of the season the Dutchman is now aware his team is capable of toppling Mercedes.
Although conceding that leading the championship "doesn't make a big difference at this stage", Vettel added: "I think if you are in contention then that is the main thing that gives you peace of mind.
"You know that you have got a good car, you’ve got a good team around you and you can get the job done.
“Obviously if you are ahead, you want to make sure that you finish in front of whoever is behind you and increase the gap but, as I said, it is still very early. It is only five races so we still have a lot to come.
“The main thing is that you are there or thereabouts.”
Vettel coy over Aston Martin "breakthrough"
In Monaco, Vettel registered his first points of the season following his winter move to Aston Martin in finishing fifth, while team-mate Lance Stroll added to the team's haul with eighth.
The German, however, would not be drawn on whether such a performance signalled the end of the team's troubles.
“It depends what comes after," added Vettel ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan GP.
"So it is up to us but certainly it was a good weekend. We had both cars in the top 10 scoring points so it was certainly a positive weekend for us but we will see.
“Somehow it is a bit similar here. It is a street circuit but it is a lot faster with a lot more straight-line content so we will see what we can do but I think we are getting to grips more and more as a team with the car we have.
“It took us a little while but it is also fair to say that it is very hard-fought in the midfield and small things can make a difference, as we saw in Monaco, to the positive and in other places maybe to the negative.
“So we just need to keep pushing and see what we can get in the next races.”
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