Martin Whitmarsh believes McLaren may have entered this season expecting too much in the battle at the front.
The Woking team has not won a title, Drivers' or Constructors', since 2008 when Lewis Hamilton claimed his first World Championship.
And this season it looks set to be more of the same.
This year's MP4-28 has been woefully slow, leaving Jenson Button and Sergio Perez fighting for points and not podiums.
"Hero-to-zero happens very quickly in this business. Not so long ago we had the fastest car on the grid and now we don't," Whitmarsh said.
"It's tough, and believe me we are annoyed with ourselves."
The team boss has billed McLaren's struggled down to overambition as they went to aggressive last year when they were designing this season's MP4-28.
"With the benefit of hindsight we were too ambitious last year. We had a competitive car and made decisions to make very big changes in the expectation of aggressively making a big step forward.
"We should have evolved what was already a competitive car. We didn't do that and are paying the cost of it."