McLaren's Zak Brown says his Formula 1 team is not expecting to regularly battle Red Bull in 2019, despite its promising performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
McLaren has made good progress with its car this year, with Carlos Sainz taking on Max Verstappen, who went on to finish fourth, at the Sakhir track last weekend before they clashed.
Although the collision put Sainz out of contention, the fact he could challenge a Red Bull has pointed to good potential in the McLaren's car.
But Brown has urged caution about the team's situation, and still believes that there is a big gap between the top three teams and the rest of the field.
When asked by Autosport if he was hopeful of more battles with Red Bull this year, he said: "I think that will probably be optimistic.
"I was pleasantly surprised we were as close to them at the weekend. But we still feel there is a big gap to the top three, and I don't think [one] weekend changes our views."
Sainz's team-mate Lando Norris finished best of the rest in Bahrain with a P6 finish to take his first F1 points, and has made two consecutive Q3 appearances.
But Brown thinks that the fight in the middle of the pack is so close that results will swing dramatically between teams from one weekend to another as a result.
"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."