Eric Boullier says Stoffel Vandoorne's task as a rookie this year has been complicated by the presence of Fernando Alonso on the other side of the McLaren garage.
The Belgian endured a difficult start to his maiden F1 season, with reliability woes hitting the rookie at the outset.
Struggles then ensued, but eventually the 25-year-old improved his performance markedly over the summer, gaining the confidence required to race alongside his prestigious team mate.
"He has been very exposed because of his teammate, Fernando, a double world champion," Boullier told Motorsport.com.
"Any young driver who joined F1 in the last five years had a period, the same as Stoffel, to adapt to F1.
"If you're in a [smaller] team, it's more quiet. But if you're at McLaren, next to Fernando Alonso, obviously it's more difficult.
"Since June now, the approach we had with Stoffel, and his approach with us, has been a bit different. We've worked on his understanding of F1 and obviously tyres.
"Now he has gained the confidence he has needed to be able to extract the best out of his car. This is why you're seeing the Stoffel we are expecting to unlock."
Indeed, Vandoorne admits a change to his approach and to his interaction with his crew has led to gains in performance.
"The way I am working with the team, working with engineers has developed a lot," said MClaren driver.
"Having had the opportunity to have a bit more track time enabled us to see what I needed from the car, to understand what I needed from the car.
"I am just confident that things will work and things will go and that is a nice feeling, to feel comfortable and do with the car what you want to do."