McLaren's current struggles may suggest it has made little progress in getting to the bottom of what has gone wrong this year, but Heikki Kovalainen is convinced that the team will not make the same errors with its 2010 car.
Although early season progress with the MP4-24 appears to have stalled, especially with the high-speed track punishing the car's aerodynamic deficiencies, Kovalainen is sure that behind-the-scenes efforts are paying off in ensuring the team bounces back to form next season.
When asked if he felt the team's rate of development with the car had tailed off, Kovalainen said: "No, I don't think so. I think it is easier to see the results and the bigger gains initially when you are so far off the pace.
"We are catching up now but the gaps are quite small – and at every race now we have new parts. I think in Istanbul we had 11 new parts in the car actually, and at Silverstone we had a modified floor and some modified elements on the front wings, plus modified hub cabs on the front wheels.
"But it is not any more the half a second in lap time we find – it is just smaller steps. You are talking about 30 milliseconds being a good step. They are small gaps and it is very difficult to see them.
"When you are optimizing your car and fundamentally it is not right, then at some point you are going to hit the limiter aren't you? I think that is what happened initially to us – we were away from the optimization of this car. We saw big gains, and now it is flattening out. But it is still important to keep pushing and trying different concepts and different directions, especially with the aerodynamics – the floor, the wings, to understand and make sure that the philosophy of next year's car is correct. It will be different to this year's car."
So keen is Kovalainen to ensure that McLaren gets things spot on with its 2010 car that he reckons the team must be willing to accept making the odd error this year in trying out development paths.
"I think the team is doing a very systematic job of actually attacking the problem," added the Finn. "I have spent quite a lot of time in the factory now talking to the designers, both myself and Lewis have been there, to talk to designers, and the people who are in change of next year's car already, and we shared our thoughts and views on what we thought the car was doing, and what we thought it needed. I think that is very crucial and the team is doing very well.
"We might not see the results instantly, and in some cases we might even see a step backwards as we realize that that was not the right way to go, but I think it is more important to find a good direction for next year while still pushing and optimizing this year's car as much as we can."
Athough McLaren's fortunes this year are a world away from its title charge in 2008, Kovalainen reveals that the attitude within the team is remarkably unchanged.
"When things go well you still don't see the satisfaction in people – you don't see them relaxing and thinking that everything is good," he said. "Everybody is still always criticising everybody, and always you find the area where you can still improve – even last year. Now, it is just the same – it is still quite calm, analysing the problems, looking at the telemetry, looking at the data, and saying, 'OK, this is what is happening. What do we need to do now?'
"People are always asking questions, and it is attacking the problem in a similar way. It has surprised me a little bit when I went around the factory, talking to people, how this problem has been dealt with and how this team is attacking this problem. I think it is the same as it was last year when there were not such big problems, and I didn't realize it or pay that much attention, but now there are more problems I try to be more involved with the team, and see if I can help more and see how the team works.
"It is more impressive and it just gives me confidence that the team is capable of fixing this problem very quickly and getting back on the game."