BARCELONA, Spain -- Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agreed he had the pace to win the Spanish Grand Prix were it not for an early collision with Kevin Magnussen.
Mercedes' much-anticipated upgrade package appears to have solved the worst of the bouncing issues the car has suffered this year and the race was confirmation it has moved closer towards Red Bull and Ferrari.
Hamilton tangled with Haas driver Magnussen on the first lap, sustaining a puncture in the process that dropped him to the back of the order, but went on to turn in a supreme display to return to fifth position.
At one stage, while driving in clear air, Hamilton was lapping consistently quicker than anyone else.
"At the end his race pace was stunning," Wolff told Sky Sports. "He would have raced for the win."
Hamilton was in a buoyant mood after the race.
"This is a great sign that we're going in the right direction," Hamilton said when asked if the team can win races in 2022.
"I have no doubt at some stage [we can win] because today, if I hadn't had that, I'd have been fighting with the Red Bulls.
"So that gives me great hope that at some stage we'll be fighting for the win."
Hamilton's teammate George Russell finished third, his second podium of the season.
After the Magnussen collision Hamilton had asked Mercedes to consider retiring the car to save mileage on the engine, with penalties incurred for exceeding allocated amounts of components.
When he had the benefit of hindsight after the race, Hamilton said he was glad the team resisted.
"I was 30 seconds behind so I thought if I am going to use a whole engine to drive around in last or out of the top 15 and at some point take a penalty," Hamilton said. "I thought we may as well save the engine so we can live to fight another day.
"Thank god we didn't, that is why we never stop we never give up and that's what I did."
Wolff said it is natural for a driver to have a negative mindset immediately after dropping to the back of the pack.
"I'm happy that we didn't retire Lewis as that was the most valuable race for us to compare the two cars, to compare set-ups, and tyres.
"It's always the call when you've basically lost the race, to decide, what's the benefit of continuing?
As a driver's perspective you're like, 'that can't be possible, I'm 50 seconds behind the leaders'. But it's still valuable mileage, we are never giving up anyway."