Lando Norris jumped polesitter Charles Leclerc into Turn 1 of the United States Grand Prix last weekend before race winner Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton demoted the Briton down to third - although the lead Mercedes was then disqualified for running with an excessively worn rear plank.
Given that the remaining rounds in Mexico, Brazil, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi represent a move away from high-speed circuits that better suit the McLaren MCL60, Norris now reckons that his best chances of fighting for a first GP win are gone.
In addition, team principal Stella says that McLaren has not got a "magic" upgrade waiting in the wings that will dramatically help improve pace and tyre degradation to take the fight to Red Bull.
Stella said: "We are realistic that this season is not like we have going to have any magic in terms of car development to actually add the lap time or add the improvement from a tyre degradation point of view that will change things around significantly.
"But we were, at the same time, not expecting this [Circuit of The Americas] track to be one in which we were leading the race for an entire stint and a half. We look forward to the coming races and hopefully we can succeed."
While the 2023 season-opening Bahrain GP did not fully reflect McLaren's pace at the start of the season, neither Norris nor team-mate Oscar Piastri made Q3 before finishing 17th and last in the race.
But a new floor in Azerbaijan plus, starting in Austria, a radical three-stage update designed to change almost "every single aerodynamic part" transformed the team's season to make the MCL60 regularly the second-fastest car behind Red Bull.
Stella said these massive gains left McLaren with "mixed feelings" over losing the Austin win.
He continued: "We are celebrating a podium here but at the same time, after the first stint, it looked like we could have enough pace to finally grasp the victory.
"I would like to reaffirm that we are very happy with the podium and this is certainly something that everyone in the initial seconds after the race was, 'Ah, shame we didn't win it'.
"I think everyone realises the proportion of adding a sequence of podiums in this season when thinking where we started from. But I also like this determination where, by now, we look for the next step."