Mercedes sets the pace in practice for Spanish GP

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Vettel finished as the quickest Ferrari driver on both occasions, placing third and 0.950s down in FP1, and fourth, 0.326s down, in FP2. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is where the teams do all of their pre-season testing and the drivers know it pretty well, too.

But the four-time world champion Hamilton reckons Ferrari were holding back and not showing their true pace.

Hamilton believes both he and his team have been punching below their weight so far this season, even though he holds a four point advantage over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship.

Bottas set the fastest time not only of the session, but of the day, with a 1:18:148, with Hamilton in second.

Ricciardo, who crashed with Verstappen in Azerbaijan, had a tough start to his weekend in Barcelona by hitting a tre barrier midway through the first session, losing a lot of track time.

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Earlier, in the morning session, Robert Kubica made his first appearance since 2010 as a reserve driver for the Williams team.

"If this weekend, we happen to get on top of the issues we have with the vehicle and start to be more consistent, then I will be a lot happier because I know then I can punch either at my weight or a little bit above".

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth with Ferrari, just ahead of crowd-favorite Fernando Alonso with McLaren.

The team had to make some modifications to Kubica's vehicle because the Polish driver doesn't have full movement of his right hand.

Kubica was replacing Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin, who returned for second practice and was slowest in 1:22.060.

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The virtual safety vehicle was deployed in the morning when Ricciardo's auto ran across the gravel and into the barriers. "But I'm satisfied with the session and with how I reacted to hard conditions".

Hamilton took over at the top of the drivers' standings following his lucky victory two weeks ago in Baku, but admitted he was struggling for outright speed - a problem he may have done something to rectify with Mercedes upgrades used on Friday.

"I don't get why, for example, in golf you get all the great golfers who design golf courses, and then you've not got any of the top racing drivers ever in history who ever designed a race track", Hamilton said.

Romain Grosjean, who crashed under the safety auto in Azerbaijan, was the first to face trouble in the afternoon session, losing control of his Haas and getting stuck on the gravel. Brendon Hartley and Romain Grosjean also had moments at the same corner, but were able to avoid the barrier.

Force India too usually get stronger from the Spanish race and Sergio Perez indicated that could be the case again in 10th, just ahead of the second "pink panther" of Esteban Ocon.

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