The period between February and March was the "worst I've experienced in 20 years at McLaren", the British team's technical director has admitted.
Briton Paddy Lowe was referring to McLaren's recent winter campaign, when the new MP4-26 was proving not only slow but also terminally unreliable as the team persevered with an exhaust concept so complex it was dubbed 'the octopus'.
Following Lewis Hamilton's Shanghai win last weekend, he confided to Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport that 2009 was also a bad start.
"But this was even worse, because then the problem was merely performance. At the final (2011 Barcelona) test the new items didn't work and the car was unreliable," said Lowe.
At the urging of team boss Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren decided to scrap the 'octopus' and revert to a Red Bull-style solution.
"After the first practice session in Australia I was hugely relieved," admitted Lowe.
Two races on, Hamilton sensationally beat the dominant Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull in Shanghai.
"That (McLaren) car, if you really knew how bad it was behaving ... we were being quite cool about it but it was worrying for sure," said the 2008 world champion, reflecting upon the recent winter.