Lewis Hamilton was the lead Mercedes in fourth, three places up on team mate and FP1 pacesetter Nico Rosberg. Between them were Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and the Force India of Sergio Perez. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen completed the top ten.
With fans so used to seeing Mercedes first and second, having to look down to fourth and seventh places for the names Hamilton and Rosberg came as a real shock to many. As was Alonso’s presence in eighth, just two-tenths off one of the Silver Arrows.
The session was barely six minutes old when another Marussia met the wall. This time it was Will Stevens, who got caught out by a power surge going into Turn 11 and lightly kissed the tyres, briefly bringing out the red flags. He was through for the evening.
Then came the first surprise. After Kvyat had gone out early to make up for time lost in FP1 with technical woes, Raikkonen set the pace in the first half hour with 1m 47.659s on the soft Pirelli tyres. Kvyat was 0.017s slower with team mate Ricciardo 0.025s off the Ferrari. The Mercedes were only fourth and fifth, Hamilton 0.288s down, Rosberg 0.402s.
Not long after Carlos Sainz picked up a left-rear puncture when his Toro Rosso brushed the wall at Turn 5, Hamilton returned to the front with 1m 47.633s as the clock ticked below 60 minutes, but that was only 0.026s faster than Raikkonen.
The Finn wrestled back the advantage when the wholesale switching to supersofts began. He redefined the ante with 1m 47.181s, which Ricciardo just missed beating. The Australian lapped his Red Bull 0.075s slower - having had to pass Vettel and Felipe Massa in the second sector where he still set a time three-tenths below the best. But then Kvyat did 1m 46.142s to go 0.039s faster than Raikkonen. Ricciardo was now 0.114s down, Hamilton 0.337s, Vettel 0.345s, and Rosberg 0.639s off the pace after struggling in sector two. That meant the top five were separated by 0.345s.
Neither of the Mercedes looked particularly good, so unless they were running a lot of fuel or had turned down their engines, the rest of the weekend could be very interesting - especially as Red Bull and Ferrari showed very strong race pace.
Perez put his Force India in sixth place, with Rosberg struggling down in seventh ahead of the astonishing Alonso who hauled his McLaren to an excellent eighth, just 0.817s off the pace, as Hulkenberg and Verstappen rounded out a top 10 separated by just 1.285s.
Williams’s quiet day continued, with Massa 11th ahead of the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson and Jenson Button’s McLaren. Lotus had a tough time, with Romain Grosjean appearing to baulk Kvyat in the hairpin at one stage and Pastor Maldonado only 18th after damaging his car brushing a wall with his right-rear wheel. They sandwiched Valtteri Bottas’s Williams as the Finn, like his team mate, focused on assessing yet more new parts.
At the back, Alexander Rossi finally got out with 20 minutes left after repairs to his car following his FP1 crash. He soon passed Stevens’ 1m 59.932s best prior to his accident, taking 19th with 1m 57.390s.
It all meant that Kvyat topped a practice session for the first time in his F1 career - and a Mercedes-powered car failed to make the top three for the first time this season.
So what is one to make of all this? Are Red Bull and Ferrari really ruling the roost? Are Mercedes actually in trouble here? FP3 will provide further clues, while qualifying will reveal the truth.