Charles Leclerc dominated the opening two practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday to suggest Ferrari’s new upgrades will help take the title fight to Red Bull.
Leclerc topped the timesheets for the opening hour-long session followed just hundredths of a second behind by teammate Carlos Sainz.
And in sesssion two, it was the seemingly much-improved Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton - in second and third respectively - who came closest to matching Leclerc rather than his teammate.
Ferrari had decamped to the Circuit de Catalunya with a raft of changes to their car, which they tentatively hoped would help them eclipse Max Verstappen, who had dominated the previous race in Miami just two weeks earlier.
And while Leclerc occasionally had issues with grip, running wide and clipping the kerb, their first main upgrades of 2022 look an immediate improvement.
Ferrari are one of host of teams with major upgrades to their car along with McLaren, Aston Martin and Mercedes.
Before the session, Hamilton and Russell said the overhaul of the floor on their car would aid the porpoising (or bouncing) experienced by both drivers and enable them to close the gap to the front two teams.
Both drivers made it clear it was a make-or-break call. Hamilton said: “We will understand this weekend whether this is the right direction and, if not, we will move in another. But it won’t mean we have to start from scratch. It will just mean a side-step.
Both Mercedes cars showed consistently good pace in session one with times in the top six but it remained to be seen if they have finally found the silver bullet to their problems. But in session two their pace seemed genuine, both enjoying a best lap time within two tenths of a second of Leclerc.
Mercedes, however, did have a strong showing for Russell in particular in Friday practice at the preceding Miami Grand Prix only for the struggles to reemerge in qualifying.
Verstappen was third quickest and three tenths of a second off the pace of the top Ferrari initially and dropped down to fifth fastest but the same time gap in the second session.