McLaren racing director Eric Boullier is expecting the team to struggle throughout the Chinese Grand Prix weekend.
The Woking team performed better than expected at the season opener in Australia with one car at least finishing the race at Albert Park.
Fernando Alonso was running in 10th place before being forced to retire, while team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was last of the cars that finished.
And running at the back of the grid appears to be another very likely scenario, according to Boullier.
"Shanghai is known to be an unpredictable weekend for a number of reasons," Boullier said.
"It's tough on cars, tyres and power units and the weather is often precarious, but I can predict that we won't be as fortuitous with our pace, compared to our rivals, as we were in Australia."
"The characteristics of the Shanghai International Circuit are very different from Melbourne, and its long, fast straights will likely expose the weaknesses in our package more than Albert Park did.
"However, we will of course attack the race with our usual fighting spirit, and the most important thing will be to ensure reliability with both cars before focusing on performance."
Honda F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa echoed those thoughts and is also bracing himself for a difficult weekend ahead.
"We expect the Chinese Grand Prix to be even more challenging," he said. "The race is always a bit of an unknown due to the changeable weather conditions, which affects the set-up and balance of the car.
"The track itself also places a lot of stress on the power unit with its slow- and medium-speed corners, and two very long straights. The key will be preparation and set-up."