McLaren is not ready to write off the 2011 campaign as a lost cause, despite Sebastian Vettel's Belgian Grand Prix victory having appeared to all but kill off the world title battle.
Vettel's latest triumph has left him 92 points ahead of his teammate Mark Webber in the championship standings, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso 102 points adrift and Jenson Button 110 off. But despite that situation making it highly unlikely that Vettel can be beaten, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says fans will expect Red Bull Racing's rivals to keep up the charge.
Speaking about whether the championship situation means McLaren will now switch all of its efforts onto its 2012 car, Whitmarsh said: "We are working on next year's car, but probably a weakness of McLaren, and my own personal weakness, is that I don't like not winning, so I cannot help myself.
"I am always going to ask the guys, 'How are we making the car quicker next week?' And we have to keep pushing for the time being. There are some races we can win and that has to be the goal at the moment.
"The championship looks pretty ambitious but at the moment we have to be positive, and the fans expect it. If Ferrari and McLaren say we are going to free-wheel now, I don't think that is the right message. I think the fans deserve a stronger battle than that."
Whitmarsh believes that gains can still be made with the 2011 car, even from work that is being done with the intention of ensuring its 2012 challenger is a good step forward.
"Interestingly, here this week, we had six performance modifications on the car. One of those came out of the development program for next year's car, so you always are going to try and steal things from next year's car.
"There is not a line you draw and say, this is purely this year, on the other side of the line, that is purely next year. You are learning and gaining this year, and that helps for next year. And occasionally you learn things from next year's development program that you can use this year."
He added: "I want the car to be quicker at the next race, and the race after that and we will keep pushing for the time being. From a championship perspective it is disappointing. But it is what it is, and we will keep working. There are still some more races to go. We will try and make our car quicker and see if we can win them."