Jenson Button said McLaren's set-up experiments in Indian Grand Prix practice did not pay off.
The Briton revealed on Thursday that McLaren would try settings "completely different" to anything it had used in recent years at Buddh.
With the team not in a championship battle this season, it wanted to experiment with more radical ideas.
But the results of Friday practice suggested McLaren was better off sticking to standard settings.
"We tried a few things this morning, but it didn't work for us at the moment around this type of circuit," said Button.
"In a way I suppose it's good as it means we've been getting the best out of the car all year.
"I think we understand where we need to be. We started in the wrong place, but we developed the car over the day and we're getting there."
Button and team-mate Sergio Perez were sixth and seventh in the morning session, but at the foot of the top 10 later on.