Lewis Hamilton insists the Mercedes Formula 1 team has “progressed a lot” in 2023 following its radical Monaco upgrade, even if the gap to Red Bull has remained.
From testing in 2022 until May's Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes pioneered the use of its size-zero sidepod car architecture. It then switched the W14 to run a downwash philosophy, as favoured by Red Bull, but with the addition of a 'waterslide' akin to that of McLaren and Aston Martin.
With the upgrade fitted, Hamilton led a 2-3 result in the following Spanish GP. But Mercedes had also enjoyed a Barcelona boost in 2022 when George Russell held on to third place.
Since then, Hamilton has scored a brace of third places and took pole in Hungary after Max Verstappen lost time in Q3. But the 'supertimes' metric - which records each team's fastest lap during a race weekend - indicates Mercedes has gone from a 0.504% (Monaco) deficit to Red Bull to 0.502% (Silverstone) and 0.866% (Spa).
Despite this, Hamilton has praised the "big steps" made by the team, saying: "I've been incredibly proud of everybody. Everyone has been working insanely hard.
"We've been making big steps. I think the biggest step we took was when we got to Monaco and the car has really progressed a lot since then.
"We have a better understanding of where to position the car. It's been a lot more consistent - podiums, top-five finishes - which has been great.
"And, generally, we've been getting solid, great reliability. So, there's lots and lots of good bits."
Pinpointing where the W14 still needs to progress, Hamilton singled out a lack of downforce and balance. The latter issue he raised early in the season after feeling disconnected to the car, with the cockpit positioned noticeably further forward compared to Red Bull and Ferrari.
Hamilton continued: "The balance, we've still got to work on. And we need more downforce, as we always do.
"But I know everyone back at the factory is head-down focused on doing that.
"We're just massively focused on getting second for the team in the constructors' [championship] and [I'm] trying to get third [in the drivers' standings]."
Hamilton currently sits fourth in the table. He trails Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso by one point.
The seven-time world champion added that he expected the competitive order behind Red Bull to still shuffle during the second half of the campaign.
He said: "I don't know how much developing people will be doing in the second part of the season, but I think there will be movement.
"I don't know what happened to Aston and how they've taken a step back. But I'm sure McLaren was really strong in the second phase.
"Ferrari and we were very close so dependent on track, I'm sure there'll be some movement in the positions. I hope that we can be a little better."