Nico Rosberg fastest as Ferrari get closer in Spanish GP practice

Sebastian Vettel leaves the pit lane
Spanish Grand Prix
Venue: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Dates: 8-10 May
Full BBC coverage details
By Andrew Benson, Chief F1 writer at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg pipped Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in final practice at the Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton third.

Rosberg was 0.156 seconds quicker than Vettel, with Hamilton 0.045secs adrift.

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Rosberg heads Hamilton in first practice

The times suggest a major step forward for Ferrari after Mercedes dominated throughout Friday practice.

Williams's Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren's Jenson Button was 10th.

The Englishman's team-mate Fernando Alonso was only 13th, 0.3secs behind Button after making a mistake at the final chicane on his fastest lap.

But McLaren appear to have made further progress as they and new engine supplier Honda attempt to recover after a poor start to their relationship.

Williams's Felipe Massa was seventh, ahead of Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen, Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat and Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz.

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Lewis Hamilton dominates second practice

The relative pace of Mercedes and Ferrari suggests a close battle for pole position when qualifying starts at 13:00 BST.

Hamilton, who had a dramatic spin on the exit of the 150mph Turn Three without hitting anything, is going for his fifth pole in a row this season, and leads the championship by 27 points from Rosberg after four wins and a second place in the first five races of the season.

Rosberg knows he has to out-qualify Hamilton to start the process of catching his team-mate.

The Barcelona track is one of the hardest on which to overtake all season, and has the highest percentage of wins from pole position of any track on the calendar.

Vettel - a point adrift of Rosberg in the title race - will be trying to at least split the Mercedes, while Raikkonen will be hoping for better after a mix-up in final practice, which put the car on the wrong settings for his fastest lap, left him 0.8secs off Vettel.

Sebastian Vettel leaves the pit lane
Andrew Benson's view of the Spanish GP
The Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has taken the place that used to be held by the much-loved San Marino race at Imola - a comfortable and familiar-feeling start to the European part of the Formula 1 season.The track is nestled in the Valles region north of Barcelona, an incongruous mix of verdant hills and heavy industry, and it lacks the atmosphere and buzz of Imola.But it is lent a charm of its own by the warm Spanish sunshine, drifting, filigree spring seeds, hazy Pyrenean backdrop and proximity of one of the world's great cities.The track tends not to produce brilliant racing - overtaking is exceptionally difficult because of the plethora of corners.But those bends - all long-duration, mostly medium-speed and some exceptionally fast, particularly the challenging Turn Three - provide one of the sternest all-round tests for a grand prix car's capabilities on the calendar.

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