Lewis Hamilton was "a little bit gutted" by qualifying sixth for the Spanish Grand Prix but is confident Mercedes can challenge Ferrari on race day.
Mercedes have endured a dismal start to the season and struggled to match the pace of the Red Bulls and Ferraris, with Hamilton's only podium coming when he finished third in Bahrain.
There have been significant signs of improvement at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – where Charles Leclerc pipped Max Verstappen to pole – but the seven-time champion was still outqualified by team-mate George Russell, who will start from fourth.
However, Hamilton hopes to be able to mix it with the Ferraris ahead of him on Sunday.
"The team have done a great job so a big, big thank you to everyone for keeping pushing back at the factory because we don't have bouncing in a straight line, which is a huge improvement for us. And the car has generally been nicer this weekend," Hamilton told Sky Sports.
"I am a little bit gutted [being sixth] because I want to be further up ahead, and you've obviously seen George is able to put it up further ahead than me, but I will keep pushing.
"[Friday practice] was our best race pace that we've had so if we could start racing with the Ferraris, for example, that would be amazing.
"I think the Red Bulls look like they might be quickest but we look like we could maybe compete with the Ferraris tomorrow and that is a big step for us."
Well done, Team. Progress Let's keep this momentum going. pic.twitter.com/8dz3tOvCrl— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 21, 2022
Team principal Toto Wolff thinks the bouncing issues that have plagued Mercedes being solved has primed them to make further strides as the season continues.
"I think we have taken a solid step into Barcelona. You try to keep your expectations at a realistic point and I think where we slotted in is somehow the best we could have expected," said Wolff.
"My belief is we have a race car more than a qualifying car, but we're going to see tomorrow how it went for the others. I think with Red Bull, they always have the tendency of being much stronger in the race than the Ferraris.
"We know how to unlock more performance, but we're not yet there. It's step by step. The other teams have continued to develop their cars when we've been in a sort of pause moment to find out about the bouncing.
"So we can pick up the regular development as soon as we understand the tyres now the bouncing is gone."