Jenson Button admits McLaren are unlikely to fight for points in the next two races, but he is optimistic about their chances once they hit Europe.
The new McLaren-Honda engine partnership got off to a slow start in Australia and Malaysia with Button seeing the chequered flag in last place at Melbourne while both cars retired at Sepang.
Although the team appear to have gained 1.5s between the two races, they are still well off the pace and Button believes they might start to fight for top 10 positions when the European season starts in Spain on 10 May.
"We have a lot of work to do before we can think about winning," he told Press Association Sport.
"I don't think we will be even fighting for points when we go to the next race in China, maybe Bahrain if we make a small step before then.
"But it is probably going to be Europe we start fighting for points, and that would be a massive step."
Button's team-mate Fernando Alonso had to watch his former team Ferrari claim their first victory since 2013 through Sebastian Vettel over the weekend.
Alonso, of course, left Ferrari at the end of last season after five frustrating years.
"He has definitely lucked into a situation, I would say," Button said. "I am sure he had the same information as Fernando when Fernando left the team.
"It is one of those situations which sometimes works out for you, for example (Daniel) Ricciardo was overtaken by his new team-mate (Daniil Kvyat), and lapped by his ex-team-mate (Vettel) on the same lap.
"Who would have thought that at the end of last year, so sometimes you do luck into a situation."