McLaren sporting director Sam Michael has all but admitted that the Woking team's chances of building on its impressive recent record in the Canadian Grand Prix are slim after development of the MP4-28 continues to be painfully slow.
McLaren came into the 2013 F1 season hoping that the decision to comprehensively rework its race-winning MP4-27 would give it an advantage over more conservative rivals, but the direction it took proved to be the wrong one, leaving Jenson Button and Sergio Perez without a sniff of the podium in the opening six races.
Although the team continues to bring development parts to almost every race, with the past two rounds in Europe seeing the biggest changes, Michael concedes that progress is not being made as quickly as McLaren – or its fans – would like and, despite further upgrades being taken to Montreal this weekend, it is unlikely to be in contention a sixth win in eight years.
"Montreal is a track that's been quite good for McLaren over the years and we've got some more things to investigate and try,” he confirmed during a media phone-in previewing the Canadian race,
"I would say that they're parts we're putting on the car to investigate different things rather than a comprehensive update - I would describe it as small steps in the right direction. The last few small steps we've put on the car have worked and, as long as we keep doing that, we'll gradually keep moving towards the front.
“We're developing the car, the car is getting better - not as fast as what we'd hope and not returning to form as quickly as we'd like - but the performance is still going in the right direction."
Although the recent Monaco Grand Prix suggested that McLaren may be edging closer to its rivals, with Button finishing sixth on merit, Michael insisted that the nature of the race and track in the Principality would have masked some of the MP4-28's shortcomings. He stopped short of saying that the team's form in Canada, however, could define the rest of its season.
"Monaco's quite a special case,” he pointed out, “The car was good around there, [and] it was good to see both of the cars fighting, at least with the Ferraris and Lotuses, [but] the true pace of all the cars at the front was controlled quite a lot because of the tyre-saving that was going on, so it was always hard to see exactly where you were.
“The most important thing when you're sort of at the bottom of the trough and trying to work your way out of it again - which we definitely are - is to make sure you keep seeing progress. As long as we keep progressing and keep getting faster and keep competing with the teams that are at the front, then that's what we want to see. That's what is important.”