Once again Mercedes had to settle for third and fifth with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton sandwiching Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, while Max Verstappen ensured the top six were covered by just 0.496s, despite his Red Bull looking more of a handful than team mate Ricciardo’s.
It was Hamilton who had been fastest from Ricciardo as the drivers began the session on Pirelli’s soft tyres. After the switch to supersofts, however, Mercedes seemed to lose their edge. Hamilton did not improve on his soft-tyre time and fell to fifth as Vettel went quickest with 1m 18.638s. Ricciardo then overtook the Ferrari with 1m 18.455s - again tantalisingly close to Rubens Barrichello’s 2004 lap record of 1m 18.436s.
Nico Hulkenberg gave Renault hope by finishing 'best of the rest' for Renault, but team mate Jolyon Palmer endured yet more woe as he crashed at the final corner in the second half of the session, bringing things to a standstill.
The Briton's crash - which followed his earlier off in FP1 - came just nine minutes after Pascal Wehrlein had caused the day’s third red flag stoppage by crashing his Sauber heavily into the barriers at Turn 11. The C35 was a mess, but the German was - like Palmer - ok.
As in FP1, both McLarens finished inside the top ten, with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne split by Carlos Sainz's eighth-placed Toro Rosso. However, Vandoorne was latterly told to bring his car back slowly to the pit lane with a potential mechanical issue.
Aside from Wehrlein and Palmer, several other drivers had offs, including Romain Grosjean who went off at Turn 4, Turn 7 and Turn 11 twice before suggesting to Haas: “We have an issue!” The Frenchman remained convinced of a suspension problem as he finished a disappointing 18th.
Both Williams drivers also had issues at Turn 4, with Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa eventually finishing down in 14th and 15th.
They might not feature at the sharp end this weekend, but the evidence from FP2 is that this could be the most open race of the season so far.