Jenson Button says McLaren knows it is making improvements but has ruled out aiming for 'big points' and rostrums for now while the pressure grows on the underperforming team.
After a disastrous 2015 upon its return to working with Honda as engine supplier, McLaren has seen steady gains at the start of this year, marked by a double points finish in Monaco with Button's ninth and team-mate Fernando Alonso grabbing fifth.
Despite being encouraged by recent results and improvements the British driver has played down his team's chances of consistently challenging for the front spots even with an upgraded turbocharger – the first development token spend Honda has made in 2016.
“It's going to be a while until we're actually competitive enough to fight for big points,” Button said. “But we are making big progress. People would think this is a circuit that wouldn't suit our car, I think it's going to be alright -- we've come here with some upgrades which should help us, it's not big but it should help us.
“I think we're very efficient in terms of our car. I know that ExxonMobil has been working really hard with Honda on fuels and we have an upgrade here which should help us in that area.”
Button remains confident McLaren is on the right path but has admitted the pressure from the outside is growing with each race his team fails to match the pace of the strong running Mercedes, Ferraris and Red Bulls and the longer it takes to catch up.
“Every time I speak to the press it's 'how about now … how about now … how about now … how about now…!' It's unbelievable, the pressure from the outside,” he explained. “But from the inside we know where we are.
“We know we're improving and I think the atmosphere in the team is very good. Fernando and myself are both very experienced, I think we bring a lot to the team in terms of our experience and direction.
“There is a lot in the pipeline. It's always very difficult; we're in a season where we want to get the best result we can and I think it's the same for everyone, but with the regulation change next year it changes how much effort is put in for that single season.
“We feel that a lot of the time we are getting the maximum out of the car which is the main thing right now. We're quite a way off the pace but it will come, it's just a matter of time -- but it does always take longer than you want.”