Lewis Hamilton says the updates to Mercedes’ 2023 Formula 1 car have not provided “the step forward that we were hoping for”, but only because further car changes are planned.
Mercedes' long-awaited developments to the sidepods of its W14 challenger – plus new suspension arrangement, tweaked floor, rear wing and rear brake winglets – finally appeared at last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, having initially been expected to run at Imola before that race was cancelled.
Evaluating upgrades at Monaco is notoriously difficult given the track's unique layout, low average speed and bumpy surface and it has also historically been a venue where the team has struggled to generate the required tyre temperatures to qualify high up the grid.
Mercedes finished fourth and fifth in Monaco, with Hamilton leading team-mate George Russell, and now arrives at Barcelona, a venue famous for testing chassis' aero to the maximum thanks to its demanding corner arrangements.
The team will therefore get much more detailed insight into how the new parts are performing, and Hamilton was asked on Thursday at the Barcelona track if he was confident they would provide Mercedes with a step forward in pace.
He replied: "Well, it's not the step forward that we were hoping for," but clarified this is consistent with Mercedes' long-term upgrade plan – that the changes currently in focus are just the first step aimed at getting it back towards Red Bull's place at the front of the grid.
"The true step forward we're hoping for is, there's been around a one-second delta [to Red Bull] in race trim, for example," Hamilton continued.
"We haven't covered that with this step, but it is a step in the right direction.
"What I felt last weekend was I felt a little bit more confident in the car, more ability to be able to commit to the corner.
"So, I'm hoping that at this track, that's the same, but hopefully better.
"There's a lot of medium and high-speed corners. I'm hoping the flow of the car is better [here]. Maybe in following, we can follow closer.
"There's a huge amount of work that's gone into this and we're hoping that it puts us on the right track.
"We're changing train tracks. But putting us on the track that can lead to that second."
On the apparently limited impact so far of Mercedes' changes to the W14, Hamilton explained that "as long as we're moving forwards, that's all that matters".
He added: "When you start a race, as long as you're holding your place or moving forwards, I feel like I've had a decent day. You never want to go backwards.
"So, when you bring upgrades, naturally you should be progressing forwards and the fact is it is an improvement, it's just not the improvement that we had dreamed of.
"But it's one step at a time. I don't feel any negativity towards it. I'm grateful we have it. Partly, it's because I understand how much work has gone into making these parts.
"The rush that has gone on, the amount of work, everyone is hugely flat out and really hungry to move the car in the right direction.
"So, I would say that I'm just hopeful that I puts us on a better track that can progress from here on."
Hamilton also said "I really don't know what to expect" in terms of Mercedes fighting with Aston Martin and Ferrari this weekend, as it has at various points so far in 2023 and hopes to do more consistently with its development plan, as both those squads are expected to bring updates to the Barcelona event.
"I know those two have upgrades here this weekend," he said. "Someone said that they had upgrades this weekend.
"So, we will find out tomorrow how good those upgrades are.
"And just from looking at the numbers of what this upgrade is [for the W14], before they had their upgrades, maybe it would put us quite close with them.
"But we'll see whether they take a big step or small step forward this weekend. I'm still hopeful that we can compete with them this weekend. But it's a big hope."