Mercedes' Lewis Hamiton tops second practice at Barcelona

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during practice for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya

Lewis Hamilton was quickest in second practice for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix Credit GETTY IMAGES

The early part of the sessions was marked by several off-track excursions, with Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Marcus Ericsson, Brendon Hartley and Romain Grosjean all visiting the gravel traps, fortunately without any effect.

Lewis Hamilton won his first race of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the end of April, launching him to the top of the table, where he leads Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by four points. "We've got some work to do overnight, I'm hoping it's cooler and calmer tomorrow". "Now we want to get the one-two we deserved in Baku..." "We've just got to refine it a little bit and make it a little bit easier to drive".

But they won't be the only ones.

The top four were separated by only 0.132 seconds at the end of the session - which promises a close race on Sunday at the Circuit de Catalunya. "We have been capitalising on circumstances like the outcome of the last race (in Baku), so I will take it for now but in the long term, the team can not rely on that".

Sitting with another Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Renault, he also grinned and complained at the fact that the Barcelona track is used so much for winter testing.

Lewis Hamilton topped the FP2 timesheet in Barcelona, whilst Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari engine went up in smoke. But, Ferrari have consistently been the benchmark with Vettel seizing pole for the last three races in succession. It's fantastic for the team to get the front row.

"We are drivers - not to say that we know everything, we don't know anything about engineering the vehicle - but we know how the cars feel, and their limitations to overtake, but we're not really asked".

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"Everything we put on the auto seems to work and that's important", Vettel said.

"I think it's still very close".

Ricciardo was third-fastest initially, more than a second behind Bottas's early 1m18.695s benchmark, but he then triggered a virtual safety vehicle when he went off. The pair collided and took each other out in Baku. The German is confident they can turn it around and match the pace set by the Mercedes and Red Bull's.

"So that's something you need to take into account for future decisions". The first run was not so good, but the last lap felt good.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso believes McLaren have a "realistic" shot of reaching Q3 for the first time this season after the team debuted an extensive upgrade package for the Spaniard's home race.

"I have been punching below my weight, and that is not sufficient enough to win a world championship".

If Alonso is to win again, an unlikely scenario with once-dominant McLaren facing a hard road back from one of the toughest periods in their history, it is set to be unprecedented.

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