Lewis Hamilton led Valtteri Bottas in another Mercedes one-two in Barcelona on Friday afternoon – but on the softer tyres that will be used in qualifying and the race, the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were much closer to the silver cars than they had been in first practice.
The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth to complete a carbon copy of the top six finishing order in FP1, and in encouraging signs for their update package, they also both got to within a second of Hamilton’s benchmark, as did Nico Hulkenberg who impressed with team mate Jolyon Palmer as Renault finished seventh and eighth.
Williams’ Felipe Massa and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completed the top ten, the latter causing a brief red-flag period in the second half of the session after running wide at Turn 9 and depositing a piece of bodywork close to the racing line.
Under the same blue skies that had graced first practice, Mercedes had set the initial pace as the teams all started on Pirelli’s medium tyres, with Bottas lapping in 1m 23.062s.
The Finn knocked over two seconds off that time when he switched to soft rubber, before Hamilton went 0.090s quicker still to take P1.
Vettel’s response was 1m 21.220s, which was bettered by Raikkonen, who was subsequently advised to pit because of an indicated engine problem. Raikkonen eventually stayed out, but was told to keep a weather eye on his machinery.
Mercedes also had the slight edge on race pace over their rivals, though Bottas, like Vettel and Verstappen, had one small trip through the gravel after being unsettled by a gust of wind.
Still, the suggestion is that things have closed up a little between the top teams – though we’ll only know one way or another in qualifying.
It was extremely tight in the midfield too, with just 0.707s separating Massa from 14th placed Sergio Perez. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was within that bracket, while Fernando Alonso - who broke down after just three turns in FP1 - actually managed to put some laps together but remained at the bottom of the timesheets.