McLaren technical director James Key believes the team has paid the price this year for its lack of bravery over the new F1 aerodynamic regulations.
The change in rules offered a clean slate for all the teams, leading to Red Bull and Ferrari, in particular, adapting quickly and going head to head for the titles.
McLaren, meanwhile, has endured a rollercoaster campaign, with its car strong on a particular circuit one weekend but lacking performance at the following track.
Explaining to GPFans the initial thought processes within the team, Key said: "To be honest, we've chided ourselves a little bit for not being as brave as we could've been.
"Some of the bodywork concepts we had were quite extreme, not dissimilar to what we've begun to see on a few other cars, let's say.
"We figured, not knowing these cars very well, that committing to something extreme in the first year of racing, could we be confident we would get it right.
"We ended up with something a little bit more conservative. Looking at it now, we had all these ideas. Maybe we should've been a bit braver and less conservative about our approach.
"There are things like that where definitely we could've been better had we pushed the boundaries a little bit more.
"Beyond that, it's just down to development rate, and a development rate's okay but I would say it needs to be stronger.
"We need to explore the space a little bit more than we have."
McLaren unveiled a new package for the MCL36 in France which it will continue to improve over the remainder of the season in its battle with Alpine for fourth in the constructors' championship.