Hamilton ended up 0.027s quicker than teammate George Russell as he put his upgraded Mercedes top of the timesheets in Friday’s only meaningful practice session in Montreal.
Mercedes continued their improved recent form after securing their first double podium finish of the season last time out in Barcelona.
However, Mercedes’ technical director James Allison was quick to point out that Hamilton and Russell each set their fastest times later in the session compared to their rivals.
“It is nice to be at the front rather than the back but I don’t think you can read too much into it,” Allison told Sky.
“Thinking the rain was coming a little sooner than it came, we ran a long run at the beginning of the session and our short runs at the end.
“Everyone else did it vice-versa, so we were doing our short runs when the track was at its best.
“George did his lap and said it didn’t feel like a very good lap.
“I think there’s plenty more to improve on the car before we get to qualifying and I think all you can read into it is that the car is in ok shape.
“It’s in ok shape but it’s not deserving of a 1-2, because we just weren’t running at the same time.
“As I say, it’s not bad, but people shouldn’t underestimate the effects of the track improvement.”
Asked why Mercedes were keen to play down expectations heading into this weekend’s race, Allison replied: “Because what we did to move the car forward a bit in Barcelona was mostly in the high and the medium-speed part of the car.
“We’ve still got significant things to improve on the low-speed and this track is mostly about going around the slow speed corners in good order.”
Hamilton: Car ‘massively better than last year’
Hamilton, a seven-time Canadian Grand Prix winner, was much happier with his car compared to 12 months ago.
“I can only base it on last year and it’s massively better than last year,” he explained.
“The rear-end is not necessarily, but overall the car is a step forwards and I’m definitely feeling the improvements that we felt in Monaco – I’m feeling them here.”
Russell echoed Hamilton’s feedback and believes Mercedes would have been in for a more challenging weekend had they not changed design concepts with their underperforming W14.
“I do think the upgrades we brought have helped the limitations and we would have had more with the old specification of car,” he said.
But the Briton remains cautious about Mercedes’ prospects for qualifying, which could take place in wet conditions.
“We need to find out where we are going to be,” Russell added.
“I think we are still on the tail-end, especially in qualifying pace, compared to Ferrari and Aston Martin. There might even be a Valtteri or an Alpine. But we always know it comes to us on a Sunday.”