Stoffel Vandoorne believes McLaren's breakthrough result at the Hungarian Grand Prix is a sign the team should be regularly targeting to be the fourth-best team during the rest of 2017.
McLaren recorded its first double-points finish of the season in Hungary, with Fernando Alonso leading the charge with an impressive drive to sixth place. The Spaniard also set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, as the Woking-based outfit leapfrogged above Sauber into ninth in the constructors' standings thanks a haul of nine points.
The twisty, tight nature of the Hungaroring provided McLaren with the chance to seal its most competitive result of what has been a testing year so far, while it also marked the first weekend engine supplier Honda did not encounter any serious reliability failures. Vandoorne reckons the Hungarian Grand Prix can act as a turning point for McLaren heading into the final nine rounds.
"I think the aim for us should be to be the fourth best team on a more regular basis, but the midfield is so tight and so close," Vandoorne said. "We're definitely improving race-by-race and finding new stuff to make us feel more comfortable and more competitive. Maybe Silverstone was a bit of a surprise to be that high up.
"We see it at every weekend we're going to, small details make a difference in how well you qualify and how well you race. We just need to keep pushing in the right direction and hopefully we can show some further improvements for the rest of the season.
"It shows that all the effort that we have been putting in have definitely gone in the right direction. It's still not where we want to be, definitely not, but when opportunities like Hungary come up we have to take them. Hopefully we'll have a couple more during the season and we can grab them as well."
The Belgian, who scored his first point of the 2017 campaign in Hungary, admits he has renewed confidence after a tough start to his rookie F1 season, but hopes his improved performances of late can continue in the second half of the year.
"The start of the season has been difficult, not only from my side but for the team as a whole," he explained. "We have had a lot of problems which hampered the running. From my side, it took a bit more time to really understand what I needed from the car because of those problems.
"With the experience I have now I'm much more able to direct the way I want to go. The last few races as well have been very good from a performance point of view, matching Fernando on pace as well, which has been positive. Every weekend I'm making big steps forward and I'm pushing very hard with the team to get things in my way, trying to get the car to suit my style a little bit more.
"Lately, we have had good runs, we have been putting in a lot of work with the engineers, with the team back at the factory, and everything we have done from now has been a very good step. It's been good progress during that first part. The margin to improve is still big. There are still a lot of things to come. That is looking promising for the next races."