Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing stormed to the top of the timesheets after the second practice session for the 2013 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix.
The defending world champion posted a hugely impressive 1:22.808 but could not shake off attention from championship rival Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari, who was only 0.017s behind. Vettel's team mate, Mark Webber, was also right up there, with 1:22.891.
Lotus-Renault's Kimi Raikkonen, second in the drivers' championship heading into Sunday's race, recovered from a poor morning session to place fourth. And Alonso's team mate, Felipe Massa, posted 1:23.110 to round out the top five.
Lewis Hamilton was sixth in his Mercedes, showing steady performance on the day and finishing with 1:23.140. The 2008 world champion beat his team mate, Nico Rosberg, by 0.258s. Behind the Mercedes duo came the Force India of Adrian Sutil. The German was followed by the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Verge, who had an excellent morning session, in which he finished third. Sutil's team mate, Paul di Resta, finished the top ten.
The morning session began with heavy rain prior to the start of the 90-minute period. As a result, a number of drivers elected to do installation laps with inter or wet tyres and then wait for the weather to clear. The rain eased off and the sun came out to shine about halfway through the session but it wasn't till the final 15 minutes that the times really started to tumble. The afternoon session, fortunately, had no such problems, with the sun shining brightly and track temperatures crossing 30C.
Unlike the first session, Vettel was out on track almost immediately, with McLaren's Sergio Perez and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg for company. The former two ran, initially, with Pirelli's experimental hard compound. The Italian manufacturers have offered teams the chance to test a variation of their regular hard compounds; these will be withdrawn for qualifying and the race.
Because of the time lost during the first session as many as 17 drivers were out on track within minutes of the session starting, with di Resta and Sutil leading the pack. Teams did have to be wary of high winds though, with the car's handling a problem in the second sector. Early times were set using the standard hard compound and Hamilton was the first man to set a truly competitive time, with Rosberg's attempt nearly eight-tenths down.
Both Ferraris appear to be very strong this weekend, with Alonso in particular very eager to perform well. This is the two-time world champion's home race but, more importantly, he is chasing a 30-point gap to championship leader Vettel.
The Red Bull driver re-set the fastest time 40 minutes into the session, after switching to the medium compounds, with what would prove to be the fastest run. It is worth noting though that Alonso's time, which came almost immediately afterwards, was hampered by traffic.
Most of the second half of the session was dedicated to long runs, with team evaluating race strategies and reliability issues. There was one point of note though, with tyre wear on medium compounds a possible issue for the race. Both Raikkonen and di Resta reported significant graining on those compounds and from the available evidence, a 10-lap run is probably the most you can get out of the medium tyres.
The third and final practice session will start on Saturday at 10am BST and the hour-long qualifying session will start at 1pm BST. Stay tuned to IBTimes UK for more information on where to watch the sessions and all the results.