Reigning two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel attempted to emphasise the positives after Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix but it provided more compelling evidence of Red Bull's dramatic decline.
The German said he was pleased to finish fifth in Shanghai, after the indignity of starting a lowly 11th on the grid when he failed to make the third session of qualifying on Saturday.
His bad weekend - which was a stark contrast to last year's domination - reached another low when he made a rotten start to the race, falling to 15th, before slowly making his way through the unfamiliar territory of midfield.
"We got some good points and it was a good recovery from 15th," the 24-year-old said after seeing Nico Rosberg, in a Mercedes, win his first grand prix.
"Mercedes won pretty comfortably today, so well done to them. We were generally too slow on the straights, and we're losing time there, it made it difficult to pass other people.
"But overall, I'm pretty happy with fifth given the poor first lap. I missed out on the start, I wasn't entirely happy finding the revs and I lost the initial bit when the lights went off.
"Usually I'm pretty quick with that, but today I was one of the last ones. The first lap wasn't great, but with the strategy we managed to come back.
"I think the weekend was good for us, we learned a lot and hopefully we will take these lessons on board and go in the right direction for next week."
Team-mate Mark Webber, who is on a different car set-up from Vettel that appears to make him quicker, said his fourth place was "not too bad".
"It wasn't the maximum, but it's very tight between the teams at the front," the Australian said.
"For me it's three fourths on the bounce now.
"It's good points and we leave here reasonably satisfied, but we need to keep boxing and keep improving."
Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull, who were imperious in the last two seasons, concluded that "our race pace was pretty strong and we got amongst the McLarens".