McLaren racing director Eric Boullier believes the battle with Force India in the Constructors' Championship served as a massive "wake-up call" for the Woking outfit.
McLaren led the Championship after the season opener in Australia thanks to the podium finishes of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, but after April's Bahrain Grand Prix found themselves behind the resurgent Force India team.
The Surrey-based side eventually overtook Force India at the Belgian Grand Prix in August and went on to finish 26 points ahead of Vijay Mallya's team in fifth place overall.
Speaking to Autosport in an exclusive interview, Boullier admitted that they didn't expect to be in such a tough battle for a spot in the top five.
"Being behind Force India was a concern and a wake-up call for everybody," Boullier told Autosport.
"We were not exactly on the same playing field as Mercedes, but we can't complain as we had the best engine.
"It's easier when you know your downforce and windtunnel is not working [and] you've found the problem with your car.
"When it's more about culture, process and leadership then it's less easy to find the problem.
"It takes a lot of hard work to understand what's wrong and how to bring everybody back together.
"I think we are there now, so we are more efficient and I think everyone at McLaren understands what has happened, which is important so we do not repeat the same mistakes."
Boullier spent a large part of the season in overseeing the restructuring of the McLaren technical team ahead of their switch to Honda engines next year. With that in mind, the Frenchman was pleased with how the season panned out for them.
"We got on the podium in Australia, but we knew looking at the numbers we were not competitive and we were lucky to get there," Boullier added.
"We were perhaps the sixth fastest team at the beginning of the year and now we are the third, which means we have improved.
"My target by the end of the season was to have around a 95 percent restructure at McLaren and that is done.
"All targets have been reached and we can make the transition [to Honda engines].
"It's not easy to manage as it's a different car and different concept, and we have had new people join us, but we are on it.
"We know where we want to go, so I think things look OK [for 2015]."