With Red Bull having had the fastest car for the 2011 season, McLaren is hoping to close the gap with the new MP4-27 this year. Until the first test at Jerez in February the teams don't know how competitive their cars are relative to the competition, and Neale said that he expected to see a number of different ideas when the new cars finally hit the track.
"We're in the business of taking controlled risk," Neale said at the Autosport International Show. "F1 is not a business where you can afford to relax at any moment of time. At the moment, we have no idea of the competition. There will be various interpretations of the rules as set out by the FIA, as we saw at the beginning of last year.
"Look at what Renault did. They took an innovative approach to where they exited the exhausts by blowing the front of the floor and that stood them in good stead because they stood on the podium at the start of last year."
However, Neale warned that starting the season with a quick car would not be enough to challenge for the title, merely the first step towards it.
"If you don't keep that relentless pressure of development up, you go backwards. Red Bull, Ferrari, ourselves and Mercedes have, over the years, got quite good at that development."
Having endured a difficult pre-season testing program last year, Neale admitted that McLaren is having to make sure it doesn't prevent it from taking risks with the new car.
"We stumbled badly last year and got into some reliability issues with the car, maybe we took too big a bite on some things that we paid dearly for. Over the winter, we didn't get the maximum use of that precious testing time. Of course that is in our mind at the moment, but you can't be defensive. If you want to win races, you've got to push really hard. We must not be risk averse and not do these kinds of projects." ESPN F1