TOPPING THE TIMESHEETS: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest time during second practice ahead of the 2015 Spanish GP. Image: AP / Manu Fernandez
BARCELONA, Spain - Defending champion and current Formula 1 leader Lewis Hamilton outpaced Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg in the second free practice session ahead of the 2015 Spanish GP on May 10.
Driving with his usual elan and precision in a gusty wind at the Circuit de Catlunya, the two-time world champion clocked a best lap of 1min26.852 to finish almost half a second clear of nearest rival four-time champion Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg, given a reprimand during the morning for infringing the pits-lane entry as he worked his way to the fastest lap in that session, wound up seven-tenths of a second back in third place.
The reprimand was his first since the 2014 Bahrain GP.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who complained of boredom during a radio conversation in the closing stages, was fourth quickest in the second Ferrari, endorsing a growing impression that the team is the only one capable of mounting a serious challenge to Mercedes' continuing domination, especially if it can outperform the champions in tyre-wear management.
For Hamilton, it was another day of business as usual. After winning three of the season-opening four "flyaway" races outside Europe, he dominated the session. He has failed to top the times in second practice only five times in the last 24 sessions.
If his near-flawless progress looks predictable, the practice itself was punctuated by unexpected moments, most notably when after Rosberg laid down an early marker with a fastest lap, the engine cover of Lotus' Romain Grosjean's flew off after 17 minutes, signalling a red flag stoppage.
This meant Grosjean was delayed in the pits for more than half an hour for repairs - a predicament shared by Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian's Red Bull car was up on its stand in the team garage for 55 minutes of the session as his fourth and final penalty-free Renault power unit of the season was installed.
When he did emerge, for a 90-minute session truncated into less than five, Ricciardo climbed to 13th with his fourth lap - compared to 35 registered by his former Red Bull team-mate Vettel.
That left him eight places behind Red Bull team mate Daniil Kvyat, who was a fine fifth after a lacklustre start to his season ahead of teenager Max Verstappen, of Toro Rosso.
Jenson Button delivered a welcome shaft of optimism to the troubled McLaren Honda team in seventh place ahead of Williams' Valtteri Bottas, Spanish local hero Carlos Sainz in the second Toro Rosso and Williams' Felipe Massa.
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso was 11th in the second McLaren, signalling perhaps that the team's new gunmetal grey livery was bringing a change of fortunes after four pointless and disappointing races.
2015 Spanish GP results at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min26.852
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min27.260
3 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min27.616
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min27.780
5 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 1min27.943
6 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1min28.017
7 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min28.494
8 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min28.525
9 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 1min28.674
10 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 1min28.712
11 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min28.723
12 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min29.086
13 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 1min29.098
14 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 1min29.217
15 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1min29.333
16 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 1min29.361
17 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min29.601
18 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 1min29.707
19 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 1min31.929
20 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 1min32.751
First practiceStay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 series.