Sam Michael, the team's sporting director, hopes that the pace shown is a sign that it can end the season in a positive fashion.
"It has been an improvement over the last couple of races really, and we have started to see some signs of getting results out of that," Michael told AUTOSPORT. "But it normally takes a couple of races to see if you have made an improvement.
"Even though we qualified ninth and 10th, that was a function of choosing that tyre, and we felt we could have been sixth or seventh of the grid which is an improvement.
"So we need to see what happens in Abu Dhabi and see if the same trend is there. "It is not where we need to be, but it is more respectable than where we have been, and will help us hold position in fifth place in the constructors'."
McLaren tried out some radical settings on its cars in India last weekend as an experiment.
Although it did not work at Buddh, the team thinks it was still the right thing to do.
Button said: "It is always very difficult over a race weekend to try anything that is too big a change, because through the weekend you are developing the car for the circuit and trying to get the right balance. We are very limited on time.
"So to run a different set-up which is quite different to what we normally run was going to be tricky, but we thought we had to give it a go.
"It is at this point of the season where we are not fighting for wins, we are not fighting for podiums still, so it was nice to try something different for the rest of this year but also for the future.
"It was worth a go, but it didn't work for this circuit."