Despite McLaren failing for a second consecutive race to get both cars out of Q1, Jenson Button insists they made a "massive step forward" at Sepang.
Neither Button nor his returning team-mate Fernando Alonso were able to make any inroads during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Finishing 17th and 18th respectively, for the second race in a row a McLaren did not feature in part two of qualifying.
However, the British racer is confident McLaren-Honda are moving forward as this time around the team-mates were only 2.3 and 2.4s off the pace respectively.
"It was easier than the last race," the Brit revealed to the BBC.
"If you look at everything this weekend we have had no issues in terms of while we've been running which is good.
"There is a massive step forward in performance. Yes we have not been able to challenge the other cars in qualifying but it is a lot closer than in Australia.
"And I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace so it is an improvement.
"We should be happy with the step but we know there is a long way to go still."
He added: "For me it was weird out there because it was very difficult to get tyre temperature.
"First sector I really struggled on every run I did but the last two were good so that is positive."