The mood around McLaren has been pessimistic since they launched the MCL60 earlier this month.

New team principal Andrea Stella already revealed that McLaren were pinning their hopes on a major upgrade set to be introduced in Baku, meaning they could be set for a difficult start to F1 2023.

McLaren launch the MCL60! 🟠 | F1 2023

In terms of pre-season testing in Bahrain, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Woking outfit, with various “minor issues”.

With Aston Martin seemingly making serious gains over the winter and Alpine likely to be in their usual spot at the front of the field, it could be an underwhelming start for McLaren, who still have star driver Lando Norris on their books.

Norris - who is widely-regarded as one of the most talented drivers on the grid - continues to keep faith with McLaren, even though the likes of Red Bull have expressed interest.

Speaking midway through day two in Bahrain, Brown was honest about their situation going into the season-opener next weekend.

“It’s hard to know [where we are] until we get going,” Brown said. “We already set some goals for development, which we didn’t hit. We felt it was better to be honest about that. Like everyone we have a lot of development coming so we are encouraged by what we see around the corner. 

“I think we will be going into the first race off our projected targets and it’s hard to know exactly that means we will be on the grid.  

“Ultimately you have your data engineers who will tell you at the end of the test what they think the pecking order is. 

“That being said, you can’t control what anyone does but yourself, so to spend too much time thinking about what the grid looks like… really you need to spend all your time on your own team as that’s the only thing you can control.”

McLaren were beaten by Alpine to fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2022, although they did manage to score a podium with Norris at Imola.

Even with a sluggish start anticipated, Brown is still eyeing fourth overall by the end of the year.

“We want to be in the top four by the end of the year,” he added. “Last year was a bit disappointing. 

“Our aspirations are to get back to the front. That will take a little bit more time, we’ve got all the technology and infrastructure that’s either in or going to be completed this year, so that’s exciting. 

“We have some developments coming but so does every other team in Formula One so we have to pick up the pace.”