Hamilton fastest as Mercedes step up the pace

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, 0.935s off the pace and 0.144s quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel, who missed out on 30 minutes of running when he slowed on the pit straight with a suspected gearbox problem.

There hadn't been three different winners in the first four races since 2013, the year before new engine rules that led to Mercedes' dominance.

Like Ferrari, Red Bull was closer to the pace in the afternoon session.

The track, located close to the city of Barcelona, is one of the venues used as a pre-season test circuit, so all of the teams already have experience and data of their 2017 specification cars on the track.

Lewis Hamilton is hopeful his Mercedes team have solved the performance problems that hit him at last month's Russian Grand Prix.

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.

"We are obviously in a much better position, but it is still early", Vettel said.

The pressure will be on Red Bull Racing, too, to make a big step forward after a disappointing opening four rounds.

Hamilton admitted he had enjoyed the challenge of driving in the changeable conditions, but acknowledged they made a lap more unpredictable - with "gusts of wind" having the potential to prove decisive.




Wolff said Mercedes had to face this new scenario after dominating for three seasons.

Haas are set to maintain their Brembo brakes package after a trial of the Carbone Industrie variety to satisfy Romain Grosjean, who hass felt a great imbalance in braking since joining the American team in their first campaign past year.

Asked who he would like as a team-mate and whether he would welcome the return of his predecessor, Fernando Alonso, now with struggling McLaren, Vettel grinned: "In the end of the day, I'm signing my contract".

"I'm struggling a bit to find the rhythm, I'm struggling a bit with the conditions, probably more myself than the vehicle". "It's my home race".

The Mercedes drivers were evenly matched throughout the session, with Hamilton holding the edge by 0.089s on the early runs on the hard tyre.

"Bottas was quicker because he won the race but Lewis is an outstanding talent, a world champion", said the the F1 legend.

"So fair play to him and he's going to remain a competitor through the rest of the year so the fight will go on and we've stated our relationship with a really great foundation I think, a respectful foundation and I think that will continue".

He hadn't contended since then, but has a chance this season in this new and unpredictable F1.

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