File picture: Yong Teck Lim / AP Photo.

TOKYO Max Verstappen said on Saturday he was "very positively surprised" to test his new Honda-powered Red Bull ahead of the season-opening Formula One race in Melbourne later this month.

"We had two very positive weeks of testing" in Barcelona, said the Dutchman, tipped to be one of the challengers to dethrone world champion Lewis Hamilton this year.

He attended pre-season events at the Honda headquarters in Tokyo with young Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who will be partnered by Verstappen after Australian Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull to join Renault.

Verstappen said he was "very positively surprised" when he tested the machine equipped with the Honda engine during the first pre-season test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

Red Bull will be powered by the Japanese manufacturer this year after ending their fractious relationship with Renault.

"We did not really have to change a lot around it to make it really drivable and nice," the 21-year-old said.

Verstappen, who finished fourth in the drivers' standings last year, also said the car was reliable and communications with Honda engineers went smoothly during the test.

"I'm just looking forward to starting driving and see how we can be successful together with Red Bull and Honda," he added.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix will be held on March 17.

AFP