1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes Mercedes has “leapfrogged” the threat from rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Mercedes started the 2023 campaign on the back foot and appeared to be the fourth-fastest team at the opening rounds.
Aston Martin made a jump up the grid order while Ferrari was still able to out-pace Mercedes despite its own worrisome start to the year.
However, Mercedes enjoyed a strong Spanish Grand Prix last time out with major upgrades attached to the car, as it scored a double podium finish with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
When asked on the Sky Sports F1 podcast how much Mercedes could take from the result, Hill said: “I think quite a bit
“Because they’ve actually shown in the race they’ve leapfrogged the threat from Aston Martin and Ferrari as well.
“They’ve actually shown [that on] a circuit where it really pushes the car’s ability to look after its tyres and have good balance and have good air performance, it’s shown that it’s got the potential there.
“Now, all circuits are different, that’s the great thing about our sport. They’re not all like Barcelona but Barcelona is one of those places where it shows pure performance, in the aero package and ability to get a balance on tyres and so forth.
“Which is why Max [Verstappen] was so dominant but I think there’s encouraging signs there for Mercedes, definitely.”
Hamilton was previously critical of Mercedes as he claimed earlier this year that the Mercedes team didn’t listen to his concerns over the W14 car when it was in production.
However, in Barcelona, he says that the car felt the best it has done since the end of the 2021 season.
“They’ve gone down a different road, as they said they would do if it was quicker,” Hill added.
“Although James Allison said you can’t just copy other people, you’ve got to know where you’re going.
“So it’s maybe this has unlocked more potential, but whether it’s able to unlock as much potential as it needs to beat Red Bull is questionable, because I think they’re stuck with the fundamental chassis that they’ve got underneath.
“But to hear Lewis say ‘I’ve enjoyed driving the car’ that’s a good sign.
“It’s also vindication for him because he’s been saying: ‘I told you, we should have done something earlier’ and they’ve gone and done what he’s been pleading with them to do and they’ve seen some progress so well done Lewis.”