Lewis Hamilton is a high with fourth in Canada qualifying

Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton was ecstatic after fourth place in the Canadian Grand Prix qualifying raised the Mercedes driver’s hopes of returning to the Formula One podium.

The Briton has struggled all year with a bouncing car that he described on Friday as a disaster but, in wet conditions, he produced his best Saturday performance in nine races.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Hamilton told reporters. “Me and Ange (physio Angela Cullen) had the biggest hug at the back of the garage because we’ve both been working so hard.

“On pure pace in the dry we’re still a long way off but to get top four in qualifying in those conditions is awesome.

“It feels very very similar to my first qualifying in Australia in 2007 in terms of excitement.”

Mercedes, dominant for the past eight years, has been off the pace of rivals Red Bull and Ferrari with a car they have yet to tame.

The governing FIA issued a technical directive on Thursday aimed at reducing for safety reasons the bouncing that raised particular concern in Azerbaijan last weekend.

Mercedes tried a modification on Friday but said a stiffening stay was not effective and would not be used again.

Rivals were already gearing up for a fight, with Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer suggesting Mercedes could be protested and asking how they had been able to produce the part so quickly when others could not.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took part in what he described as a “feisty” meeting of his fellow principals with tempers reportedly flaring.

“It’s all fair that we’re having political fights about performance gains, but I think some of them are taking it too lightly when you look at drivers’ health,” he told Sky Sports television.

“I think in Baku it was definitely too dangerous to run these cars. Every single one suffered and you could see that the bottoming on the straight was quite dangerous. We saw it yesterday here too.”

Hamilton’s qualifying was a sharp contrast to Friday when he had detected no progress.

“It seems a lot of things we try on this car struggle to work,” he said then.

“It’s not the Montreal that I’m used to and that I’ve driven throughout my career, it’s the worst I’ve felt any car here.”