George Russell and Hamilton finished second and third fastest in second practice at Barcelona, with both drivers just two tenths adrift of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who set the pace on Friday. 

It comes as Mercedes introduced their first major upgrade of the season in Spain in a bid to resolve some of the problems that have so far plagued them this year. 

“Positive,” Hamilton said after second practice. “Super happy with the progress. 

“So a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory for not giving up. We’re not the quickest yet but I think we’re on our way. 

“It’s the first time we’ve driven down the straight without bouncing. We still have some bouncing, but it’s way better. So yeah, starting to eke into a bit of the potential in our car.

“It’s still tough out there with the car but it’s much nicer than it’s been before,” the seven-time world champion added. “Really grateful for those upgrades, now we need to fine tune them into the next session. 

“Overnight there’s lots of data to go over, try and position the car, and I think we can get it into an even better place for tomorrow. So hopefully we can tackle the heels of the guys up ahead.” 

Russell was more skeptical than his teammate given that Mercedes also looked competitive during Friday practice at the last race in Miami, only to fall back in qualifying and the race. 

“I don’t know to be honest because in Miami we were quickest on Friday and here we’re second,” Russell explained. “So let’s see. 

“The car is definitely reacting differently, we’ve got different limitations this time. We definitely don’t have the porpoising in the straight, which is good, but we’re still experiencing a little bit here and there in the corners, which ultimately you need to dial it out through the corners. 

“I think Red Bull still look very, very strong - they look like the team to be reckoned with at the moment. We need to go through the data.”

Asked if he thinks Mercedes can translate its positive Friday pace into a strong showing in qualifying, Russell replied: “I see no reason why we can’t be as far away from the front as we showed, if not a little bit closer. 

“But there’s differences with power modes and stuff, I think Ferrari and Red Bull were in their lowest power mode so they’ve got a bit on us there. I don’t know, it’s tricky. 

“Degradation was massive for everybody and that’s going to be what makes or breaks this race on Sunday, so that’s going to be what we focus on tonight.”

‘Progress but no ecstasy’ for Mercedes at F1 Spanish GP

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff praised the hard work at the factory that has enabled Mercedes to bring significant design changes to their car. The team have also introduced a new power unit on both cars for the Barcelona race. 

"Both companies have worked so hard,” Wolff said. “Brixworth has really gained land against the other power unit manufacturers, it’s fantastic to see that and I’m really proud. 

“On the chassis side we are getting there. We have a second solid Friday like we have in Miami. Just we have to see when the grip keeps coming tomorrow whether we are able to keep that kind of performance, and at least be in the mix or solid in the top three.” 

Wolff echoed the comments made by his drivers about improving the porpoising issue, though he stressed it has not been completely eradicated. 

"It’s better but still not that the drivers feel comfortable in the high speed,” he said. “Turn 3, Turn 9 we are losing a lot of time and we need to find out what we are going to do tomorrow. 

“Progress - but not exuberance and ecstasy!”