McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has urged his squad to go on the attack this winter to build a Red Bull beater, amid growing confidence over early progress with its 2012 challenger.
Although Red Bull Racing dominated 2011, securing both championships before the end of the campaign, Whitmarsh sees no reason why his team cannot overhaul its rival to stop RBR from claiming a third consecutive crown.
"They have done a very good job in terms of performance and reliability, but it can change," said Whitmarsh. "We have been there. We have had back-to-back World Championships and then lost form, so we have to attack and go for it."
McLaren secured back-to-back world titles with Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999, but the following year Ferrari triumphed as it began an era of dominance. Following the lessons learned this year, when McLaren endured a troubled preseason testing campaign, the team has openly admitted it needs to ensure it starts 2012 at the front of the field if it is to launch a title campaign.
Whitmarsh said that early feedback from the engineers was that the team was making some good progress with the design of next year's car, but he conceded that through the winter period it is always difficult to gauge how successful a new car will be.
"I sat in the project review meeting last week and we had made some really good progress, so I came out of it really feeling good," he explained. "What happens in the review is that week by week, you make a load of performance or you have had a quiet week of making performance and you start to worry.
"During the season, every two weeks, you see the competitors, you see what they have done and you see that reference point. But during the winter it goes off the radar screen and you are flying blind.
"It ebbs and flows – you set targets and if you are meeting those targets you start to get punchy and believe you can do it. There have been years when you come out of that process and you are only half-confident, and it all comes good. And there are years when you hit your targets and you go out and you find that someone has moved the target somewhere else when you weren't looking.
"We had a good week so I feel quite chipper about it right now. We have to keep that momentum now. I think the team is working well, and I am sure we are going to have both drivers in good shape next year."
Whitmarsh is hopeful that his staff has learned lessons from last year's troublesome preseason testing build up, where work on a radical exhaust system proved a disaster and McLaren had to redesign its concept before the first race.
"I think we had a shocking winter, probably one of the worst winters we have had," he explained. "We were nowhere near competitive and had not done a race distance before we finished the Australian GP. "That is not how you should start a season. I think we have made some decisions based on what happened, and hopefully taken some learning from that.
"We were taking some non-productive risks last year, and although it is easy for me to step back, I got reasonably involved at the end of it. But we have some really clever creative people. If I go around and say, 'Don't take risks', I would be stifling people who are much cleverer than me and more inventive."