Daniel Ricciardo believes he now has an engine inside his Red Bull that is allowing him to fight in Formula 1 again.
Ricciardo suggested at the start of F1 pre-season testing the TAG Heuer-badged power unit in the RB12 felt "pretty much" like the one that he finished 2015 with.
But heading into last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, power-unit supplier Renault revealed it had found half-a-second of performance over the course of testing with upgrades.
Ricciardo finished his home race fourth, his best result since his runner-up spot in last year's Singapore Grand Prix.
"I definitely think we can feel an improvement compared to last year," said Ricciardo, in pinpointing the reason behind his performance.
"I was able to pass some faster cars like the Toro Rosso, the Williams and the Force India, so that was encouraging.
"I think 12 months ago we would not have been able to make those moves, so we have started off on the right foot.
"We have an update coming, hopefully sooner than later, but we can be pretty excited."
Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes his team has started the season close enough to Ferrari to be able to challenge it later in the year, when Renault gains arrive.
Ricciardo also feels the car was kind on Pirelli's rubber, making three tyre changes overall in Melbourne - including the one under red-flag conditions - compared to two for some of its major rivals like Williams and Force India.
"We were able to look after the tyres better than the Toro Rossos and some other teams. We proved that, so I am happy," assessed Ricciardo.
"We were also pretty close to Mercedes and Ferrari with laptime, so we can all be pleased with fourth."