The reigning world champion's appearance at the top of two practice time sheets in Germany was powered by significant changes to the MP4-24 package, and he duly qualified a credible fifth on Saturday afternoon.
He told reporters a win in front of McLaren engine partner Mercedes' home crowd on Sunday is unlikely, but heralded a big step forward for the previously uncompetitive car.
"It's put us on the right road because, before, we were almost up to a dead end," said Hamilton, 24.
It had been suggested that the Nurburgring upgrade was the last for the 2009 car, before McLaren turns its full attention to the 2010 campaign.
But having previously grappled to understand the basic problems of the MP4-24, it is believed McLaren may now be more willing to explore the avenue of development discovered by the latest changes.
"With more updates coming, I hope within the next three or four races we are competing for wins. I honestly think we can do that," said Hamilton.