While the team acknowledges there is no 'magic bullet' which will suddenly restore it to the front of the Formula 1 grid, it believes it has now pinpointed what has gone wrong with its 2013 car.
As a consequence it will bring a raft of upgrades to China in a bid to start this year's campaign afresh at Shanghai.
"I believe we do know where the problems are on the car," managing director Jonathan Neale said during a Vodafone phone-in.
"We managed to improve the car between Australia and Malaysia, and we were closer on the pace there.
"Taking the learning from that weekend, we're taking a number of upgrades to China. Some are routine, some are a response to the moment.
"We need to run the package we have in China in order to be absolutely sure [about progress], so Friday is a very key element.
"I certainly believe we are on the right track now; we have an idea where the problems are.
"After the Chinese Grand Prix I think we will have more [answers]."
Neale insisted McLaren can still feature in the 2013 F1 title fight, in part because of its conviction that the MP4-28 is a potential race-winner.
"We believe that we have underlying a very good package. Clearly it is not a performance we expected, but it's a long season as everyone knows," he said.
"We've seen in previous years the car that wasn't on pole [at the start] can fight it out right to the end, and everything we are doing here is designed first of all to make us back into winning form.
"If we can get on that quickly - and there is no reason why we can't - we can fight for the championship.
"We are not under any illusions about the amount of work we need to do to get the pace back into the car.
"There is no one thing, no magic bullet; there are a number of things that will restore the performance of the car.
"Obviously it's not an ideal start, we can't shy away from that, but I believe in this team and this car."