Lewis Hamilton topped the times by .09 of a second over his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the second practice ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver once again used the upgraded silver arrow to put a three-tenths gap between himself and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in third. Mercedes have been working on rebuilding their slight edge over the Ferrari since March.
However, the gap between the two has closed up, with just three tenths between the top three cars. Raikkonen’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel was .11 of a second between them. While Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and six.
That will be seen as progress for Red Bull, as the gap has narrowed between them, Mercedes and Ferrari. However, Mercedes appear still to have the edge on the single lap pace while Ferrari appears to be better on the race pace.
Mercedes slight edge appears to be found in the slower final sector of the track.
All the teams have brought their first significant upgrades of the season. But, the Mercedes upgrade has been the most visually dramatic, with a new narrower nose and a number of other major changes, and so far it appears to be having a significant effect.
The Red Bull upgrades haven’t delivered enough for them to get as close as they would have liked.
But Raikkonen’s long runs was interrupted briefly when he was called into the pits with a suspected engine problem, after being instructed to use the part throttle, but driving through and straight back out on track.
It wasn’t a trouble-free afternoon for Verstappen either, as a ‘gust of wind’ blew him off track and through the gravel trap.
Fernando Alonso’s tough season showed no sign of ended. After returning to the circuit, he lost half an hour while McLaren completed an engine change. But, the change didn’t mean he improved his pace, finishing the afternoon nineteenth.
Alonso ranted on the radio at one stage that: “The engine feels good. Much slower than before. Amazing.”
Renault was not far behind the Red Bull’s, with Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and being the last driver within a second of Hamilton. His team-mate Jolyon Palmer was only three tenths down but had two-thousandths of a second over Williams’s Felipe Massa.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz rounded off the top ten, that was despite causing the only red flag of the afternoon. Sainz shattered his front wing after hitting a kerb.
While Alonso was slowest, team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne slotted his McLaren in between the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.