Managing director Jonathan Neale insists that McLaren remains cautious about what to expect from the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, despite planning a series of upgrades for its MP4-28.

The Woking-based team has endured a trying start to the campaign having been off the pace of the front-runners during the opening four flyaway races.

It means the team starts the European leg of the campaign down in sixth place in the constructors' championship, 86 points down on Red Bull, and with work to do to try and haul itself up the championship standings.

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Extensive work has gone into improving the car in the time since Bahrain last month, but despite the upgrades planned, Neale said it was important that the team didn't get carried away with its expectations of what could be possible in Barcelona.

"We've been working very hard on the car and I think our rate of understanding and effort has been very high," he said during the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in session with the press. "But the first European race will be when everyone else is bringing upgrades as well - our progress will be measured against our competitors..

"I think we'll be cautious at this stage and say that a measure of our progress will be revealed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Some things will work, some things won't. We've got a lot more work to do on Fridays as well, so I don't see us being able to just run the car without a huge degree of upgrades.

"But bear in mind that we are essentially trying to sort out a correlation issue. I'd rather not give away exactly which bits are going to be changing until we've decided on Friday night which parts are staying on the car for Saturday."

Neale added that the team didn't expect its rivals to stand still, which made it difficult to predict the gains that could be made when the drivers hit the track in Barcelona.

"Whilst it's natural that you will want us predict that we're going to be on pole position - and we'd very much like that to be the case - it's a tough sport and the competitors don't stand still," he said. "Quite what will be delivered depends on what everybody else is doing. So it's just impossible to predict.

"I'd rather talk with some effort about what we're doing and what we have achieved than what we will achieve, that's just common sense. In terms of looking forward, I believe that it's really important that we sort out the issues with the car and the correlation. Because all of the time you've got that lingering doubt about what went wrong and how do we fix this, there's opportunity for it to arise again.

"I'm confident that we can get back to winning ways. As for the Championship, that's a long way out at the moment and I think we'll be better placed to comment on that as we head towards the summer and the shutdown period."