Red Bull was "surprised" by the performance of the RB19 at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, according to Max Verstappen.
The car and driver combination has proven to be one of the most dominant in recent times, with Verstappen contributing to 14 of the 16 wins this season.
Team Principal Christian Horner admitted that they could have won both championships with just Verstappen, with the Dutchman amassing over 100 points compared to his nearest rival and team-mate Sergio Perez.
At the start of the season there was some ambiguity over whether Red Bull could continue its form from 2022 after Verstappen took seven victories following the summer break as he romped to a second title.
While the team had a great start to the season, it was expected that the reduced wind tunnel hours coupled with the cost-cap penalty would start to impact it as the season went on.
Instead, rivals have been playing catch up, with both Mercedes and Ferrari switching to similar car concepts and Aston Martin failing to sustain a season-long challenge while McLaren has emerged as as front runners.
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Verstappen: We expected it to be close in Bahrain
Verstappen claims the team thought rivals would be a lot closer, but knew that the RB19 was always a car that was going to yield success.
"It always felt nice. I thought it had good balance. But you never know what the other teams have come up with over the winter time - we really expected it to be close into Bahrain," Verstappen told media, including RacingNews365.
"We were all positively surprised with how good the car was there. But that's one track. Of course, when you go to the next tracks and you can see, the car has always been quick - especially in the race."
Red Bull ran into some problems during the Bahrain GP weekend after a smooth pre-season test, mainly owing to the changes in conditions between the weekends.
But any questions over its pace in the race relative to rivals were answered quickly, when Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished over 20 seconds ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.
"We always had really good race pace, I think that's always very promising, and throughout the year we had a lot of great results in tough conditions as well," added Verstappen.
"It was easy to make a mistake as a team, even if you would have a dominant car. I think for most of the races, we just did an incredible job."