(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AP
MADRID: Mercedes came out of Formula One's Spanish Grand Prix with increased confidence after showing significant progress and finishing ahead of Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen put on another dominant performance to win Sunday's race from pole position, but Mercedes took a big step forward with Lewis Hamilton finishing second and teammate George Russell third to give the team its first double podium finish of the season.
Mercedes acknowledged that the gap to Red Bull remained significant, but there was optimism after the team's much-anticipated upgrade package showed it has the potential to keep the team ahead of Aston Martin and Ferrari.
The upgrades couldn't be introduced at Imola after the race was canceled because of floods in Italy. The changes made it to the cars in Monaco but the street circuit was not ideal to give a real sense of their potential.
"This result is definitely what we were working towards,” Hamilton said. "This is amazing and it's down to all the great, great work that is going on with the people back at the factory, keeping their heads down. I hope everyone is feeling really proud back at the factory.”
With Hamilton's second podium finish of the season, and Russell's first, Mercedes overtook Aston Martin for second place in the constructors' championship, while Ferrari stayed fourth.
"George did a really good job, so we delivered good points on a whole,” Hamilton said. "We've just got to try to keep this up. For us to be quicker than the Ferraris and the Astons was really mega.”
Hamilton was second after starting fifth on the grid at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. Russell moved up from 12th to make it to the podium.
"This result highlights all the hard work and efforts that have gone on at the factory to bring these upgrades,” said Russell, who is fifth in the drivers' standings, just behind Hamilton. "We had a strong race here last year, so the next couple of races will be key to see if we can consistently produce results like this and close the gap to Red Bull.”
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff celebrated the podium finish but noted the team had to remain "realistic.”
"We are a good team at grinding away,” he said. "Once there is a clear direction we just go for it. Let's keep our expectations real though. We've got a long way to go to catch Red Bull but it's good to see we are moving in the right direction.”
Aston Martin had one of its worst performances of the season, with Fernando Alonso - the veteran two-time champion who is third in the drivers' standings - finishing in seventh place. Teammate Lance Stroll was sixth.
Ferrari also struggled and seemed to take a step back from previous races, with Carlos Sainz Jr. finishing fifth and teammate Charles Leclerc 11th, out of the points.
"I think we generally had better pace than them,” Hamilton said. "Collectively as a team, we generally did a better job, we made less mistakes, we delivered through the sessions.”
Mercedes' next chance to show its improvements and confirm where it really stands will be at the Canadian GP in two weeks, where Hamilton - who hasn't won a race since the Saudi Arabia GP in 2021 -- finished third last year behind Sainz Jr. and Verstappen.
"We are learning more and more about the car. I am hoping that the car continues to be like it was this weekend,” Hamilton said. "I am hoping from here onwards we are in a good place. For sure, there will be some circuits where the car isn't quite in the right window but hopefully the next few races should suit us.”