Rather than creating an evolutionary design with its MP4-28, McLaren went aggressive with a pull-rod front suspension and revised aerodynamics on its new car.
That bold step has contributed to difficulties in getting a proper understanding of the car in testing, and McLaren is not expecting to be fighting at the front in Australia.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who saw McLaren leapfrog his outfit as the pacesetter at the end of last year, thinks his rival's decision could yet pay off - especially because it was done to allow greater development potential later in the campaign.
"I think McLaren had a very good car last year," explained Horner ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
"Arguably for large parts of the season they had the fastest car, so they will know their own reasons why they have chosen to go the route they have.
"But they have good reasons to do so, and we will see at the end of the year if it is the right decision or not."
Horner thinks his own team is in solid shape for the first race, but accepts that the close competition means his outfit cannot make any predictions of where it will be.
When asked by AUTOSPORT if he would be more shocked if the team qualified on pole position or in 10th place, Horner said: "In many respects neither would be a surprise.
"It is impossible to tell what the playing order is at the moment. In terms of who is where, maybe we won't see on Saturday if there is some rain around as well.
"So it will probably take two or three races before we see a pattern emerge.
"You can see the usual suspects will be competitive: Fernando [Alonso] in the Ferrari, the Mercedes has looked quick over the winter, and McLaren. The Lotus has been competitive as well. It will be the usual suspects."