McLaren engineering director Paddy Lowe has admitted that being "behind the curve" on blown diffuser development was probably the main factor in his team's disappointing German Grand Prix result.
Ferrari dominated at Hockenheim, with only Red Bull offering a challenge while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished fourth and fifth, 25 seconds adrift.
While Red Bull has used a blown diffuser from the start of the year and Ferrari introduced its version for Valencia, McLaren did not race the device until Hockenheim. Lowe pointed out that it was still in a developmental stage and nowhere near its potential.
"We were a couple of races behind Ferrari in introducing it, and half a season behind Red Bull," he said during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "We did reach a point at Hockenheim of being able to race a working system, which was both giving performance, and it was reliable.
"We are able to deliver something extra with that, but being behind on the curve, there's more to come relative to our principle competitors. We find more all the time, so we're going to keep pushing on – it's a new platform from which to find performance. "We had a step in Germany and we hope to have a better step in Hungary. Clearly Red Bull and Ferrari were quicker at Hockenheim and we hope to close back some, if not all, of it."
Lowe felt it was inaccurate to suggest that McLaren's rivals' development efforts were proving more successful.
"On the time sheet you only ever see the difference between the cars, and not an absolute level of development," he said. "It's difficult to see the pace of development of different teams during the season. We may be putting two or more seconds on the car during a season – that's typical of the last few years – but that's not seen in time sheets.
"The difference between the teams often comes down to the phase of work they're in. Ferrari and Red Bull have now adopted the F-flap system we had earlier. We're a little behind on the exhaust blown diffuser. Maybe that's a reason we were a little behind in Germany."
He warned that McLaren could well be on the back foot again at the Hungaroring this weekend – but does not believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with its package.
"We don't have particular confidence that we'd be better in Hungary than we will be anywhere else," said Lowe. "There are characteristics that don't correlate to our strengths so far this year, but equally there are some that go the other way. We will do the very best we can and be confident of a strong performance, but I make no predictions that we'll be stronger than anyone else.
"We've got our work cut out to find about the 0.6sec off we were in qualifying and the race at Hockenheim. We've got to keep pushing the system to find out what we can do to keep delivering performance aerodynamically, and what we've not managed to exploit yet. That's what we work in. I don't think there is anything particularly bad about our car; it's more about us not being quick enough at that event.
"There's no sense that the car is fundamentally deficient, it's more about finding gaps and opportunities to improve."