The British team qualified on the back row of the grid at Melbourne and then saw Kevin Magnussen retire with a power unit glitch before the race had even begun, but had the solace of witnessing Jenson Button make it to the chequered flag, albeit two laps down.
"After a tremendously difficult weekend, it's not easy to find positives, but in fact there are some," racing director Eric Boullier said.
"First and foremost, we're pleased that Jenson's car was able to finish the race. He drove extremely well, keeping Checo [Perez] behind him very adroitly for many laps, and garnering us a great deal of useful data in completing 56 laps.
"Having said that, he was lapped not once but twice by the race winner, Lewis [Hamilton], and we know we have a mountain to climb as far as performance is concerned. Nonetheless, our corner speeds were pretty decent, and there's definitely untapped potential in MP4-30 that both Honda and ourselves can unlock.
"In two weeks' time we'll be racing in Sepang [Malaysia], where the weather is bound to be extremely hot and humid. I'm not going to be rash enough to predict a form upswing in so short a time frame, but we'll be working flat-out between now and then to make performance and reliability gains in any and every way we can, of that you may be 100 percent certain."
Button said he too could see positives from the day, particularly in the way McLaren compared to rivals like Red Bull and Sauber during the race.
"We're still a long way off, but this is a good starting point," he said. "Today really helps in terms of development: if we'd done three laps, we'd have learned nothing, so we've learned a massive amount by completing a race distance.
"There were more positives: we're as quick as the Force Indias in the corners, and we look similar in speed through the corners to the Red Bulls and Saubers, too.
"There's a lot of work still needed – on power, driveability, downforce and set-up – but we can make big strides. And, by improving one area, it tends to snowball; more and more areas start to improve."