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McLaren sporting director Sam Michael can offer no guarantee the team will be back up to speed by the time of next month's double header.
McLaren find themselves floundering with a car they are struggling to understand after adopting a radical approach to its development, and trailing a long way behind rivals Red Bull, Ferrari, and now Lotus.
After Jenson Button and Sergio Perez finished a lowly ninth and 11th respectively in the opening race in Australia on Sunday, the duo can again expect to be scrapping for the minor points at this weekend's second round in Malaysia
After Sunday there is then a two-week gap before the teams fly out for the next two races in China and Bahrain in the middle of next month, and so an opportunity for McLaren to make progress.
The feeling is, however, the issues are so varied and complex there is no quick fix, and that come China McLaren may still be far off the pace.
Asked whether China was a realistic target for the team to have got on top of their issues, Michael said: "It's difficult to set a timeframe.
"With these type of things you are working through lots of different areas on the car, and inevitably uncover things as you go along.
"To know if we can fix it for China or Bahrain, I can't say yet, but we have a lot of people on it. Everyone is on it, and the focus is very much on getting it sorted asap.
"The other thing is, when you come out of the other side of this - although you don't plan to have an experience like we've had with this car - normally your understanding runs much deeper.
"You are forced to rip up every route to look for issues, and that improves your understanding. You normally learn a lot more in the face of adversity, as long as you come out of the other side.
"The work I've seen going on in the last few weeks at the McLaren Technology Centre is quite encouraging.
"We will get on top of the problem, but I can't give you a timeframe at this point."
McLaren are a team under pressure, though, as they seek answers to the riddle of their car, and not just from the outside.
Michael insists there is also an "internal pressure" because as he points out McLaren do not deliberately design a car not to win.
"The pressure you put on yourself is pretty significant," added Michael.
"I'd be more worried if no one did care, and no one from the outside gave us a hard time because then you would think the expectations are not there.
"The only reason you get a hard time about it is because the expectation is to win, and that's also the expectation of the people internally, which is why we do everything we do there.
"The pressure is always there, so our focus is to get on top as quick as we can."
With Button and Perez 11th and 12th at the end of Friday's two 90-minute practice sessions for Sunday's race at Sepang, it is clear there remains plenty of work to be done.
Michael, however, has dismissed all suggestions the team will revert to last year's car which ended the campaign winning the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix.
"Our total focus is on this year's car, working on that and getting it sorted," insisted Michael.
"If you did bring back last year's car you would have a few technical issues to overcome, such as the front wing because the regulations have changed.
"We'll keep all of our energy on this car at this point because the potential in this car is still greater than last year's."