Eric Boullier concedes that realistically McLaren's goal for this season is to finish fifth on the log, the position they were last season.
Swapping from Mercedes power to Honda engines for this year's Championship, McLaren have yet to get off the mark.
The team, though, has not been far off, finishing 11th in Australia and again in Bahrain.
There have also been signs of improvement in qualifying as, last time out in Spain, both drivers progressed to the second segment for the first time.
Neither Fernando Alonso nor Jenson Button were able to turn that into points with brake failure putting the Spanish out of the race while a "scary" MP4-30 meant Button could not push.
In fact, such was the ill-handling of his car that the Brit warned that if Spain was not a one-off, McLaren would not score at all this season.
That, though, is not a sentiment echoed by his Racing Director.
Asked by BBC Sport where he saw McLaren finishing the year, Boullier said: "Maybe it looks stupid, but fighting for the position we finished last year.
"It is not good enough – I want to win and I hope we will win. But I have to say something realistic.
"Let's say by the second part of the season after the summer break we are at all the races comfortably in the top-10 qualifying shoot-out and fighting for big points – I'm not saying the podium.
"That for me would be a big, big achievement."
The Frenchman was also questioned about the 'wisdom' of Honda entering F1 this season having only began to develop their hybrid engine two years prior.
He responded: "Everyone can have their opinion about the strategy but you can understand why there is so much potential to unlock and why the more mature the project will be, the more we will catch up."