Lando Norris says his runner-up spot in FP2 in Bahrain was likely the result of his rivals holding back rather then a statement of McLaren's pace.
The Briton concluded the Friday evening session just 0.095s behind pacesetter Max Verstappen, a performance which, on paper, confirmed McLaren's solid display in pre-season testing at Sakhir two weeks ago.
However, Norris was quick to downplay the result, insisting he was lacking confidence in an MCL35M that required improvements in several areas. The 21-year-old expects the usual suspects to head the field come qualifying tomorrow.
"I'm a bit surprised by today, and I think it's more we just showed more pace than the others," said Norris. “It's as simple as that.
"We will see the obvious four cars at the front tomorrow, I'm guessing. But you never know. We could be surprised. The car didn't feel that good today.
“I don't have the confidence that I want, especially in the medium and high speed corners.
"So corners like Turn 6, Turn 7. I made a mistake on my first lap and I had to abort because I turned in and just completely lost the rear.
"My confidence in the car isn't where I want it to be. It isn't where we had it last year, but there's also improvements in other places compared to last year.
"So it's not necessarily that everything has to be better. There's just areas to work on."
Daniel Ricciardo, who set the sixth fastest time in FP2, echoed his teammate's comments, confirming that McLaren still had work to do.
But the Aussie reckoned that performing among the top six with a car that's currently off the mark is perhaps a promising sign.
"I think the encouraging thing is that we're second and sixth, and I think still both relatively unhappy," said Ricciardo.
"Not to be too pessimistic, but I don't think we're yet saying we're 100% into the car and comfortable and it's doing everything we want.
"So, yeah, I think we have still got some work to do. But knowing that and we're still at the pointy end, I guess that's encouraging."