Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a dominant second practice ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix as the reigning world champion outclassed his opposition.
The Briton had narrowly lost out to Mercedes team-mate and closest title challenger Nico Rosberg in yesterday’s first session but hit back later in the day.
Hamilton’s time of one minute 26.852 seconds was more than four-tenths of a second quicker than the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who beat fellow German Rosberg into third place.
Rosberg, who also received a reprimand in the morning after making a late call to pit and taking the incorrect route, could not get close to Hamilton, with the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen the only other car to get within a second of the championship leader.
The session was stopped briefly after the Lotus of Romain Grosjean spectacularly shed a large portion of bodywork on the main straight, with the red flag allowing track marshals to clear the copious amounts of debris left behind.
There was a stronger showing by McLaren, who are hopeful of their best race weekend of a so-far pointless season, Jenson Button setting the seventh-quickest time and local favourite Fernando Alonso going 11th.
Ahead of Button was Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen for Red Bull and Toro Rosso respectively. Although Kvyat’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo only got out towards the end of the second session after an engine issue restricted his morning running, he still finished 13th.
Valtteri Bottas took eighth having sat out the first session as Susie Wolff took over – the Finn still going quicker than the sister Williams of Felipe Massa, who was tenth.
The second Toro Rosso of Spaniard Carlos Sainz was ninth while Grosjean was 12th, two places ahead of team-mate Pastor Maldonado.
Rosberg had the quickest time in a fairly mundane morning session, with Hamilton spinning towards the end.
Vettel was again the closest challenger to the Mercedes and will be hoping to follow up his earlier win in Malaysia to keep his own title aspirations alive.
Button remains cautious about McLaren’s progress despite a positive showing in second practice. The 2009 world champion ended the session in seventh place with a time 1.6 seconds slower than pace-setter Lewis Hamilton.
McLaren have yet to score a point in 2015, with Button unable to start the last race in Bahrain due to a host of mechanical issues. Team-mate Alonso finished that race 11th in the most competitive showing so far for the team, who arrived in Barcelona with a number of upgrades.
Although Button said on Thursday it was progress rather than points that mattered at present, he will have been buoyed to have clocked a good time. He said: “It is the closest we have been [to the front] all year. It is always nice seeing the timing sheets but it is only practice. We will see tomorrow in qualifying.
“We always seem quicker in P2 than in qualifying but, hopefully, we can have a nice, clean weekend and we will see where we stand, but I would say it is a promising day.”