Daniel Ricciardo's beaming grin was wider than usual on Friday after an upbeat showing for Red Bull in opening free practice for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
"The early signs are really good," explained the Australian.
"It is our best on long runs that we have seen ? even though they were not very long and, like for like, we feel we had a good Friday. I think we are closer to Mercedes than we have been at the last few races and we have a good chance here".
Despite his faith in Red Bull's race speed, Ricciardo does not think Mercedes can be challenged in qualifying unless it rains.
"We have a good chance in those (wet) conditions, but let's see what happens there," he said. "In the dry we have to aim for the second row."
Ricciardo's Red Bull team-mate departing four time champion Sebastian Vettel had a more difficult Friday, but was also broadly optimistic about the car's potential.
"Overall it was okay. We had a few issues, but I don't think we had too many Fridays that were trouble free? In the dry, if we get everything right, we should be in a reasonable place."
While the Red Bull men were optimistic, world championship leading Briton Lewis Hamilton suggested he had plenty more speed to come in his Mercedes car.
Asked if he had managed to clock a clean lap amid three red flags and some mistakes, the championship leader replied: "No I didn't. That's not a big issue. It's practice."
"Quite a few red flags at the end so we didn't get the best of long running, but it's the same for everyone. The car feels OK, some improvements we can make."