Andrea Stella feels the performance deficit McLaren still has to Red Bull means the team faces a huge amount of work to challenge for Grand Prix wins on merit.
Two sizeable upgrade packages have transformed McLaren from also-rans at the start of the year to second fastest team behind Red Bull as the campaign heads into its final five races.
Double podiums in Japan and Qatar were sandwiched by a first F1 'win' for Oscar Piastri in the Sprint in Lusail, with Norris third, meaning the team is currently 11 points behind a faltering Aston Martin and 79 behind Ferrari.
Despite emerging as the closest challengers to Red Bull and Max Verstappen, Team Principal Stella is of the opinion that the performance chasm to that combination is so vast that in ordinary circumstances over a full race distance, McLaren is not yet ready to challenge.
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"The fact that [Lando] has been second four times actually doesn't change very much," Stella told media including RacingNews365.
"Every event is a new event, so you have to do the whole job, you don't accrue any credit, but the results show that we have improved and are now close [fighting for consistent podiums].
"But if you see the performance step that is required, for instance in Japan to be P1, it is huge, more than half-a-second in qualifying.
"We don't even know how much in the race it was because Verstappen didn't need to push, so we are very conscious that there is a lot of work to do ahead, but being P2 occasionally is a good position to be in, but we need to make the final step.
"We know we have work to do on tracks that have low-speed corners, bumps, and are very demanding on traction, to become the second best team at all tracks.
"But like I've said, I don't look at how far we can go, I just look at what do we have to do now to go as far [forwards] as possible?
"Myself, and all the team, we are focused on keeping improving the car, getting the most out of it every weekend, be reliable, operate trackside as well as we can do, and then we will see where we are after Abu Dhabi in the final classification."