Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes and Ferrari have made “pretty much the identical step” with Formula 1 upgrade packages brought to the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in both Friday sessions at Barcelona, as teams introduced their first serious rounds of aerodynamic updates under F1’s new rules for 2017.
For Mercedes, that includes a new scoop turning vane, and it finished the day three tenths clear of Ferrari.
With Ferrari having won two of the year’s first four races, Hamilton believes this weekend’s actual deficit is less than that, and that both teams have found similar gains.
“It’s definitely a step forward,” he said of Mercedes’ W08 upgrades.
“Everyone worked very hard to bring the upgrade here, as every team did.
“They’ve done a great job with the package to move forward in this fight and make us stronger. We’ve all stepped forward.
“It’s not really changed anything, the gap looks like it’s within a tenth between us and Ferrari, which is the same as the last race, we’ve both made pretty much the identical step.
“It’s basically a token of time, you put it on the car and you get that extra tenth or two, whatever it is usually, and that’s what we’re seeing today.”
Ferrari finished pre-season testing on top, and Hamilton said that while the latest upgrade to the Mercedes was not a game changer, the car feels significantly different this weekend to how it did at Barcelona two months ago.
“A huge amount of work has gone in to upgrade the car and fantastic work, engineering and crafting work from the mechanics and everyone back home,” he said.
“Whilst it’s a huge package, when you drive the car – the first time driving here since testing, it’s night and day difference – it feels like it’s a small step in the car globally.
“But it is an improvement, and that’s what we want.”
Fresh from taking his maiden victory in Russia a fortnight ago, Valtteri Bottas finished as Hamilton’s closest challenger, within one tenth in each session.
He agreed that the “the gains are not massive”, but that it was a step in the right direction.
“It is a better car than what we had in Russia,” Bottas said. “That is the main thing.
“You can see the hard work by the team is paying off but I’m sure everyone is improving.
“Maybe our improvements are more visual than any others but I’m sure it’s going to be very close again.”