The current campaign is only eight races old, with 11 still to run - starting on Sunday with the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring - but the realisation is setting in that this year could well be a write-off.
With McLaren languishing in sixth in the constructors' championship, prospects of winning this year's titles disappeared long ago.
In failing to score a point in the last two grands prix in Canada and at Silverstone, you have to go back four years for the last time the Woking-based marque chalked up such an ignominious feat.
In terms of victories, only once in the previous 16 seasons have the team gone through an entire campaign without taking the chequered flag, and that was in 2006.
There is now every possibility of that happening this season as they prioritise next year and the introduction of the new engine rules.
"As we've said many times before we took some wrong paths during the winter, and we're behind in the development cycle," Whitmarsh said.
"We're throwing quite a lot of ideas at the issue at the moment, and every now and then there is a glimmer of hope and performance, but we are not making the progress we want.
"We are at a point now where we need to ensure we're in a competitive situation next year.
"So, a lot earlier than usual, we're putting a lot more resource into next year's programme.
"We need to because of the whole new raft of regulations, and we have to be realistic about what's achievable (this year).
"We're still racers, and there's no giving up in the race team. We're going to do everything we can to understand the car, make it quicker, make it better, and then race as well as we can.
"We'll be pushing hard, but we have to be realistic in terms of what our priorities are because we've a big few years ahead of us.
"Next year is a challenge for everyone, and that's why we have many more resources applied to that than we normally do.
"We're absolutely determined we're in a competitive situation for next year, and to then build upon that in 2015 and beyond as we enter a new and exciting phase for the team with the return of Honda (who will be supplying the power units)."
As much as it might pain Jenson Button to know he may not win a race this season, he can understand the circumstances.
"We will still be developing this car, but personally it's great we've more people working on next year's car," he said.
"We want to win grands prix because when you do it's a very special feeling.
"That day when you cross the finish line, you share it with the whole team and everyone that's been involved in that win, so it's a very emotional moment.
"But our main aim is to win the world championship, which is something we cannot do this year, so it's a good idea we are concentrating a little more on next year."