McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella has conceded Red Bull remains a "step too far" ahead to challenge for victories before the end of the season.
Lando Norris insisted the Woking-based outfit was 'coming for them' after both he and Australian Oscar Piastri finished on the podium behind championship leader Max Verstappen at the Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren struggled for performance at the start of the season having admittedly missing development targets across the winter but a major upgrade package first introduced at the Austrian Grand Prix proved to be a turning point.
Having been labelled the seventh-fastest team on the grid by Norris prior to that update, McLaren has now emerged as Red Bull's nearest challenger more often than not and has risen to fifth in the Constructors' standings - closing rapidly on Aston Martin, which had been second in the opening quarter of the campaign.
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A step too far
Only Ferrari has stopped Red Bull from a clean sweep of race wins after Carlos Sainz won the Singapore Grand Prix - a weekend that saw the Milton Keynes-based team struggle with car set-up.
Asked whether McLaren could catch Red Bull and emulate Sainz's feat in line with Norris' battle cry, Stella told media including RacingNews365.com: "[They are] still a step too far.
"But in fairness, at the moment it looks like Max is a step too far.
"There's a variability of tracks left this season but none of these tracks have the Singapore characteristics.
"So while there are some tracks where we could be competitive - I think Qatar should be a decent track for us - I am afraid the characteristics we like are also the characteristics where Red Bull will be just outstanding.
"We will have to be realistic that we need some situations to happen to be able to make the final step."