McLaren boss Ron Dennis shrugged off a frustrating Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday and said the team's pace could not be fairly evaluated until after the fourth race of the season.
McLaren started the year on a high note, Lewis Hamilton winning the opening race in Melbourne with team mate Heikki Kovalainen in fifth, but the pair could not match the Ferraris at Sepang after being penalised five places in qualifying.
Hamilton's frustration was compounded when a pitstop problem left him fighting for fifth place on Sunday, while Kovalainen fared a little better in finishing third behind world champion Kimi Raikkonen and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.
"We don't really know what our pace is at the moment," Dennis told reporters.
"We won't really know how competitive our car is until after Barcelona (on April 27). As I have said before, Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain (the next race) are very different circuits and do not reflect the true pace of the car.
"Barcelona will be where it is all at."
Comparing his team's dominance in Melbourne with their struggles in Malaysia, Dennis highlighted the importance of running at the front of the field.
"Once you spend time in traffic, your front tyres get a bit more punishment and that just makes it difficult," he added.
"Once we were in clean air we were able to have the pace and that was the advantage of leading the grand prix, like we did in Melbourne.
"If this is our worst weekend of the year then we will take it."
Dennis rued Hamilton's first pitstop, where the championship leader lost valuable seconds when his front-right wheel would not come off.
"The only drama we had in the race was the seized wheel nut. That effectively took away a third and fourth place for us," he said.
"Other than that it was a fairly uneventful race, where the pace was dictated by back markers.
"But leading both championships at this point in the season is not a bad place to be in."
Hamilton tops the drivers standings on 14 points, three ahead of Raikkonen and Germany's Nick Heidfeld. Kovalainen is a point further adrift.
McLaren lead the constructors' standings on 24 points, five ahead of BMW Sauber and 13 in front of Ferrari.