Pat Symonds has warned against writing off McLaren, adamant that if Renault could turn their fortunes around last season, Honda could do the same this year.
Last year Renault went from a dismal pre-season in which they struggled to string together laps to winning three grands prix during the Championship.
This year it is McLaren who were fighting to keep their car out on track during the pre-season, all too often blighted by issues with the new Honda engine.
Symonds, though, says that doesn't mean they can't and won't turn it around during the course of the season.
He said in an interview with Autosport: "If you rewind and think about some of the problems Renault had this time last year, they came through and won three races, didn't they?.
"I think that was a fantastic tribute to what they did and therefore we shouldn't underestimate what anyone else can do."
The technical chief reckons this season is likely to begin with Ferrari taking the fight to Williams while he also expects Red Bull to get involved – and maybe later down the line McLaren too.
"At the moment it looks like Ferrari [closest to Williams]," he said.
"They look to be the ones who have made the most improvement but you can't ever discount any good team.
"Red Bull will be there and once McLaren get through their problems I'm sure they will be.
"I try and spend more time looking forwards than backwards but you'll always have someone snapping away behind you."