Asked whether this season could be a three-horse race between Mercedes, Ferrari and his team Red Bull, Verstappen says matter-of-factly: "Not at the moment".
The 19-year-old claimed a stunning maiden win at last year's race around the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, triumphing on his debut for the Milton Keynes-based outfit, after Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out on the opening lap.
Red Bull has struggled relative to Mercedes and Ferrari so far this season having failed to take advantage of the new aerodynamic regulations, with Daniel Ricciardo qualifying fifth in Russian Federation but over 1.7s adrift of pole position. We are feeling a bit of progress so we need to keep finetuning it.
"So far this weekend before qualifying we were still finding the balance a bit with the new upgrades, but I think in qualifying we were spot on".
"If we can close the gap already a little bit, that would be a good target".
"We are still the third team but the changes are taking us in the right direction and we have found an increase in grip".
Ferrari have a great record in the Spanish Grand Prix and will be looking to maintain their momentum on Sunday. Teams typically introduce a raft of upgrades to their auto at the race.
However, Verstappen was able to extract more performance from the updated Red Bull and achieved the team's smallest margin to pole this season with a gap of 0.557s to Hamilton.
However, a more likely contender for a 2018 Ferrari seat is Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, even though he is under contract.
Mercedes lead the constructors' standings, a point ahead of Ferrari, after two wins by each of the teams. "He won his first race and hasn't won since!"
"It will be hard to close those six tenths, but we are working on it".
"I think this will be an important race", said Vettel. "I was very relaxed because the team told me to try to understand the vehicle, there was no pressure".
"But for now we'll take what we can and it is nice to be up on the podium". Fernando Alonso will be wishing he had the same belief in his team's ability heading into his home race.
It was a rather distant P3 for the Aussie who finished 75 seconds behind race victor Hamilton.
Max Verstappen has not hit the heights in Formula One this year but the teenager will have grounds for optimism on a track where he made history 12 months ago.