McLaren are hoping to secure at least one win next season, after securing a deal with Renault to run the French manufacturer's engines from 2018.
Earlier this month, McLaren announced Renault will replace Honda engines, which have proved to be extremely fragile since the Japanese giant – which reportedly contributes as much as $100m to the team's budget – returned to the sport in 2015.
Eric Boullier's, the racing director of the Woking-based team, said the switch to Renault engines represented a major step forward and there was mild optimism McLaren could be competitive at the top level again.
"We have always been in the top three, but we were far from that position in the last three years," he said.
"So we are going with Renault to have a better engine and get back to those top positions."
While the Frenchman warned against premature enthusiasm, he was adamant the British team, which has not won a race since 2012 and has not finished on the podium since the opening of the 2014 season, could win a race next year.
"For 2018, our goal is to fight for third place in the constructors' championship," he was quoted as saying by Spanish sports daily Marca.
"But I hope we can do more than this and get a win after so many years.
"I will not start to create false expectations or put hope in our fans that we cannot fulfill, but I believe that we will at least win a race [next year]."
By securing Renault engines for next season, McLaren also convinced Fernando Alonso to remain with the team, a remarkable coup given the two-time world champion has not finished any higher than fifth since returning to McLaren in 2015.
The Spaniard had reportedly lost patience with Honda and had made it clear to McLaren that his decision on whether to extend his deal with the team would be contingent on it securing a new engine manufacturer.
With Alonso now tied down to a new lucrative deal, McLaren can now turn towards planning ahead for next season and Boullier said work on the new car had already begun. However, he explained the number of regulation changes likely to be introduced in 2018 meant the team would in all likelihood have to wait a while longer before development could continue.
"It's a bit early," he said.
"There's still some regulation changes for next year with the introduction of Halo and this kind of stuff, and we're just in September.
"Even if we started working early on next year's car, we need to wait a little bit more. We also need to wait for testing and obviously Australia to understand where the other teams are in terms of performance."