Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in the second practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel outpaced Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes to split the dominant duo.

The reigning World Champion lapped the 4.655-kilometre Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with a 1:26.852 to go 0.408 seconds faster than Vettel, with Rosberg 0.8 seconds off the pace of his team mate. KimiRäikkönen was fourth-fastest in his SF15-T meanwhile, as Ferrari once again emerged as the Silver Arrows’ closest contender.

Whether the Scuderia’s challenge might be enhanced by the new updates and developments they’ve brought to Spain this weekend remains to be seen. The gaps between the Mercedes and Ferrari – more or less – remained the same as they were in Bahrain, although Rosberg reported gearbox problems during his qualifying practice run on the Medium compounds, claiming his gearbox was rejecting downshifts.

In the last half hour of the session the team embarked upon their race simulations, with Hamilton consistently lapping in the low 1:31’s on his harder compound tyres before they started to drop and he once again complained of his seat being too hot.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat was fifth fastest, but his teammate Daniel Ricciardo missed most of the session after yet another Renault engine change. The Australian completed a couple of laps near the end, but could only go thirteenth-fastest.

Impressive rookie Max Verstappen was sixth-fastest in his Toro Rosso and his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr was in ninth place, splitting the Williams Martini Racing duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa who were eighth and tenth respectively.

Jenson Button gave his Woking-based outfit McLaren signs of encouragement, putting his MP4-30 racer in seventh place, about 1.6 seconds off the pace of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Button’s team mate Fernando Alonso was 11th fastest and brought a highlight of the afternoon when he complained to his engineer about the performance of his energy recovery system. In an amusing exchange:

“The battery is not charging,” the Spaniard said.
“It is charging, keep going,” his engineer replied.
“Maybe you have a virus in your computer then because it’s not charging,” Alonso fired back.

Early on in the session was a hard time for Romain Grosjean, when the rear bodywork of his E23 Hybrid racer exploded down the main straight, forcing the red flag to come out briefly to clean up the debris left out on track from his Lotus.

The Enstone team fixed the rear bodywork as quick as possible with the replacement repair being relatively straightforward. Even so, the Frenchman might have been forgiven for casting more than a quizzical eye as he saw in his mirrors at the repair job of his pit crew, putting a lot of gaffer tape over the affected areas of his car. He ended the session twelfth-fastest, two places ahead of his Venezuelan teammate and 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado.

Saturday’s final practice session at Sakhir begins at 11:00 local time (GMT +2).

Formula 1 Gran Premio de España Pirelli 2015 – Free Practice 1 Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:26.852 26
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:27.260 + 0.408 37
3. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:27.616 + 0.764 35
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:27.780 + 0.928 36
5. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:27.943 + 1.091 25
6. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:28.017 + 1.165 32
7. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:28.494 + 1.642 31
8. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:28.525 + 1.673 39
9. Carlos Sainz es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:28.674 + 1.822 31
10. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:28.712 + 1.860 36
11. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:28.723 + 1.871 28
12. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:29.086 + 2.234 14
13. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:29.098 + 2.246 4
14. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:29.217 + 2.365 34
15. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:29.333 + 2.481 37
16. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:29.361 + 2.509 34
17. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:29.601 + 2.749 38
18. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:29.707 + 2.855 35
19. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:31.929 + 5.077 30
20. Roberto Merhi es Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:32.751 + 5.899 23

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8