The seven-time world champion ended Friday practice at the Spanish Grand Prix fastest by topping FP2 ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas as 14 cars got within a second of his benchmark time.

Hamilton was left impressed by the gains made by Mercedes’ F1 rivals, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso ending up being the reigning world champion squad’s closest challengers in second practice as Red Bull slipped back.

“It’s amazing to see the progress that Ferrari and McLaren are making, even Alpine. It’s fantastic to see them so strong,” Hamilton said.

"That applies pressure to us also, not just to one group.”

After Mercedes topped both sessions on Friday, Hamilton said he was pleased with the progress his team has made with its W12 car since the start of the season.

“It’s been a good start to the weekend,” Hamilton explained. “The track’s awesome and balance is similar to what we’ve had in the last race. It looks close but looks like we’ve got decent pace today.

“We have to work at it,” he added. “It never comes that easy and I don’t think with this car it’s ever going to be that case.

“But we understand the car and we know which direction we need to go balance-wise, so we’ve made some tweaks along the way.

“I don’t know if it got better for this session necessarily but there were some findings there so I’m hoping once we can analyse this session have a better set-up for tomorrow.”

Bottas was equally pleased about Mercedes’ start to the weekend but is expecting the gaps to get even closer come qualifying.

“It seems close, you know,” he said. “I think Ferrari was really quick today, but you never know.

“But I still think we should keep focusing on our performance, trying to get the most out of the package. Hopefully we can be ahead, but we just focus on ourselves and for me, specially, I’ll keep focusing on my work.”

 

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