Having gone into the race as hot favourites for victory, McLaren failed to score in Abu Dhabi but was still able to secure third in the F1 constructors' championship.
The team went into the season finale leading Ferrari by a point but looked well placed to secure the position to beat the Scuderia
when Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole.
However, the Briton would be forced to retire from the race after picking up a brake issue early on while Heikki Kovalainen could only manage eleventh.
That still proved to be enough for the Woking-based team as Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella both also failed to score for Ferrari, and McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh was pleased to secure third in the standings, even if the result of the finale had been disappointing.
“In many ways, today's race was a disappointing end to a challenging season – but, overall, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about it,” he said. “The team has worked tremendously hard all year to improve MP4-24, which started the year as one of the slower cars but ended it with two fine wins and a string of impressive points-scoring finishes, culminating in a dominant pole position here yesterday. And Mercedes-Benz's engines have been excellent all year.
“But perhaps more important still is that work on MP4-25 is already going very encouragingly – it's already quicker than MP4-24 – and there's every reason for us to be confident that we'll be able to continue to develop and improve it significantly between now and the beginning of the 2010 season.
“The fact that we beat Ferrari to third place is of course a matter of pride to us, and I want to pay tribute to all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for the superhuman efforts they all made in achieving that milestone. Ferrari are always formidable opponents for us, and next year we hope to beat them again – this time for first place rather than third.”