The Woking-based team has emerged as Red Bull’s most consistent challenger in recent races, with the squad having finished on the podium five times in the last six races.
Having made impressive progress this year, it is aware that it still has more work to do before it can think about challenging the dominant Red Bull squad in pure pace terms.
Speaking at the Brazilian Grand Prix, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella reckoned that the only thing now separating the two teams was tyre management – with Red Bull still having the edge in dealing with degradation.
As the team pushes on with its 2024 design, Stella says that the progress it needs to make to close down the deficit goes beyond just downforce.
“We have set some targets, let's say, but I can't say in which area and how,” he said. “But what I can say is that it's not only aero.”
Asked by Motorsport.com how much of the tyre degradation issue was down to aerodynamics, and how much mechanical, Stella said: “It's a combination of both. I can't say much more than that.”
McLaren knows that rivals like Mercedes and Ferrari, which have underperformed this year, are embarking on radical revamps for their 2024 challengers – which means that the fight at the front of F1 could be very different next year.
But he does think his team is well-placed to push forward this winter because it is starting from a much more competitive platform.
“In fairness, where you are with next year's car partly depends on where you are this year, because that's the starting point pretty much for everyone,” he said.
“But it depends on the gradient of development. This gradient [at McLaren] started in July, pretty much, and there is such a long period which is just about the work you do on next year’s car.”
One important aspect about McLaren’s current form is that it was achieved with a car that in its launch-spec was not what the team wanted.
Stella says that some aspects of the MCL60 have been retained, but the team has had to bring through a lot of overhauled elements throughout the campaign.
“The car we launched in March, there are some elements that have been developed with continuity, but most of it has been developed in discontinuity,” he said.
“Especially when it came to the floor, bodywork, rear wing, and to some extent the front wing.
“We just needed to kind of go into different concepts and start to get them to work. It wasn't just a linear iterative development of the starting concept of the launch car.”