Lewis Hamilton topped timings in the second practice session ahead of Sunday's Spanish GP but failed to beat Valtteri Bottas' benchmark from the morning in Barcelona.
The world champion posted a 1m18.259s on the Soft compound tyre, less than a tenth shy of his Mercedes teammate as drivers struggled to extract a full lap of performance from the Supersoft rubber during the usual qualifying-style simulation.
Daniel Ricciardo was also on the yellow-striped tyre in second, finishing just over a tenth behind Hamilton with the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen the top driver on the Supersoft in third.
Ferrari's subdued day continued with Sebastian Vettel in fourth, but Kimi Raikkonen would see his day ended early after an engine problem saw the Finn coast back to the pits.
The final half of the session was handed to a race simulation to give the teams idea of the likely tyre and fuel performance.
Here the Supersoft again struggled but it was Red Bull enjoying the best pace and managing better durability than Mercedes perhaps opening up some interesting strategy options for Sunday.
Ferrari do appear to be lagging behind their top three rivals but many believe they are simply hiding their true pace.
In the midfield, Haas emerged as the fourth best team with Romain Grosjean recovering from a spin into the gravel at Turn 7 early to head back out and post the seventh best time.
Teammate Kevin Magnussen, who was reprimanded for an incident with Charles Leclerc in FP1, was just behind in eighth.
Stoffel Vandoorne offered hope that McLaren could make their first Q3 appearance of the year in ninth as Sergio Perez completed the top 10 for Force India.
Those in need of improvement ahead of qualifying include Fernando Alonso in 12th, with the Spaniard three-tenths behind his teammate, and Renault as once again Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were well down on their expected positions in 13th and 17th respectively.
Sauber look to have made some progress with their upgrades for this race as Marcus Ericsson led Leclerc by just 0.013s in 15th and 16th.
But problems continue at Williams as they once again brought up the field with Lance Stroll three-tenths behind the next best car of Brendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin a further half a second back after completing all his running on the Supersoft tyre.
Full standings can be seen below:
FIA unlikely to reconsider red flag rule
Vettel pleased Ferrari back 'in range' o
Ricciardo hints at Turn 1 challenge from
Verstappen bemused by suspension failure
Hamilton satisfied to get second Q3 lap
US GP: Hamilton snatches pole, Vettel to
US GP: Vettel leads tightly packed top t
Ocon tips Leclerc & Gasly to trigger gen
Mercedes boss Wolff would 'probably' use
Ricciardo predicts Austin 'lottery' than
Pirelli reveal 2019 tyre colours amid ch
Bottas focused on own performance despit
McLaren not returning full-time to IndyC
Vettel disagrees with grid penalty for r
US GP: Hamilton untouchable with one-lap
Horner clarifies misquoted comment on Ve
Arrivabene claims Ferrari critics 'waiti
Toro Rosso drivers take new Honda engine
US GP: Hamilton leads by over a second i
Vettel vows to maintain Suzuka approach
Hartley questions his support from Toro
Williams looking to secure budget and Oc
Following Michael 'not a burden' for Mic
Hamilton: Thoughts of claiming the title
Ricciardo unconcerned by Renault pace: 2
Alonso considers Hamilton among top five
Verstappen 'has more talent' than Vettel
Manufacturers to blame for current F1 di
Perez confirmed at Force India for 2019
Hamilton on matching Schumacher: "We'll
Renault to build all-new engine for 2019
Leclerc would expect Ferrari axe if pace
Verstappen concerned 2019 wing changes w
Alonso: F1 needs to refind the unpredict
Kubica to receive financial boost in bid
Marko in talks with Nissan to secure Alb
Renault warns of manufacturer exit if F1
Schumacher not ready to take the big lea
Russell maintained belief in 2019 F1 sea
Verstappen: Red Bull approach will avoid
FIA's Whiting rejects thought of delayin
Kvyat 'stronger and better prepared' ahe
Sainz hoping for repeat of 2017 Renault
Perez: Force India results vindicated ad
Hamilton 'a class act' as he goes for fi
Wehrlein joins Mahindra in Formula E for
Renault: Verstappen should blame Red Bul
Renault covering their own lack of pace
Stroll pleased 'bridge hasn't burned' wi
Vandoorne gets confirmed with HWA for Se
Vettel 'a lot like Schumacher' and will
Alonso admits each F1 race is 'more emot
Ricciardo right at home at 'one of the b
Mick Schumacher 'can become one of the g
Mercedes see threats from Honda and aero
Sainz confident McLaren will rebound in
Haas boss Steiner does see capacity for
Webber questions 'long-term' Renault mov
Hamilton calls for 'dynamic' F1 weekends
Leclerc doesn't rule out 2019 F1 title b
Williams is considering Ocon for second
Abiteboul: Renault a victim of Mercedes/
FIA gives green-light to 2019 F1 calenda
Pirelli prepared to allow teams unlimite
Mercedes junior Russell confirmed at Wil
Palmer wants 're-think' of F1 stewarding
Marko 'upset' with Vettel and 'shocked'
Toro Rosso's Tost: Time running out to a
Verstappen reveals Red Bull's sharp resp
Wehrlein refused Formula E offers as he
Mercedes suggests Sochi team order was a
Vettel accepts Mercedes have had it 'too
Ex-F1 driver Coulthard reveals all-femal
Ricciardo admits F1 motivation has 'fluc
Sainz concedes Renault engine gains insu
FIA refute engine sensor claim regarding
Hamilton calls for Vettel 'respect' by m
Vettel to seek private chat with Verstap
Wolff: Only a 'freak' injury could stop
Vettel reaffirms Ferrari commitment afte
Alonso: Suzuka penalty proves 'how bad F
Vietnam to be confirmed on 2020 Formula
Hamilton surprised by sudden Ferrari slu
Gasly unhappy with Toro Rosso strategy a
FIA's Whiting explains why Magnussen avo
Raikkonen: Verstappen incident compromis
Mercedes boss Wolff: Vettel right to att
Alonso enjoyed the fight despite finishi
Ricciardo admits P4 exceeded Red Bull's
Bottas accepts finishing P2 to Hamilton
Leclerc demands answers from stewards af
Verstappen rejects blame for Ferrari inc
Vettel slams Verstappen for coming toget
Hamilton vows 'one step at a time' as fi
Japanese GP: Hamilton eases to lights-to
Alonso: McLaren car the same since Spain
Ocon gets grid penalty for practice red
Hartley thrilled by best F1 qualifying a
Vettel accepts he & Ferrari made tyre ch
Hamilton praises Q3 decision as he reach