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:
Verstappen owns up to Monaco "mistake"
Monaco GP: Ricciardo flies to pole, Vers
Monaco GP: Red Bulls split by 0.001s as
No chance Grosjean will be fired by Haas
Williams insists current problems won't
Pirelli open to altering compound names
Alonso praises McLaren recovery after mi
Hamilton satisfied with Mercedes pace af
Verstappen: Red Bull has pace to negate
Monaco GP: Ricciardo completes practice
Monaco GP: Ricciardo leads Red Bull 1-2
Ricciardo sensing Mercedes mind games ah
Hamilton & Vettel enjoy back and forth o
Alonso rejects thoughts of a surprise Mo
Leclerc receives Vettel backing ahead of
Abiteboul: Red Bull incapable of recogni
Hamilton not completely ruling out Monac
Lauda admits there is a risk Mercedes co
McLaren chief eyes WEC with Alonso behin
Hockenheim warns Liberty not to chase mo
MotoGP's Marquez & Pedrosa to test Red B
Alonso excited to return to Monaco in im
Ex-F1 champion Hill believes Hamilton is
Ricciardo raring to go as Red Bull mark
Leclerc ready to make dream come true by
Ferrari fightback expected as Mercedes r
Red Bull set likely race for 2019 engine
Stroll Sr. maintaining faith in Williams
FIA president Todt confident Ferrari won
Red Bull's Marko offered mixed message o
Why an idea to host F1's 1000th race at
FIA reveal key factor in banning Ferrari
Mercedes boss surprised by level of Red
Pressure building at McLaren amid appare
Verstappen hoping to use Barcelona podiu
Hamilton rejuvenated and more passionate
Vettel concedes Pirelli right to alter t
Hamilton secures dominant win as Vettel
Wolff rejects suggestion Mercedes forced
Hartley thinks Spain practice crash was
Alonso bemoans McLaren's inability to cl
Red Bull drivers frustrated by qualifyin
Vettel's admission as Hamilton claims "i
Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton storms to pol
Hamilton expecting Ferrari surge despite
Verstappen worried Red Bull's engine def
Kubica gives worrying Williams report af
Miami gives green light for F1 race in 2
Spanish GP: Bottas & Mercedes set rapid
Alonso's latest comments suggest he is f
Hamilton: Mercedes can't keep depending
Risk of team orders will hover over Red
Perez disheartened by lack of driver inf
Renault make early bid to make Sainz mov
Alonso tempers McLaren expectations ahea
Prost suggests a Hamilton weakness that
Wolff seemingly shuts the door on Riccia
Todt, Ecclestone questioned as part of I
Maldonado rejects "inappropriate" Versta
Renault allow Red Bull a little breathin
Williams protest Sirotkin penalty for Sp
Renault adamant Red Bull must decide 201
GPDA's Wurz hopes 2019 changes a first s
Hamilton: Easier for rivals to play catc
Vettel: Recent results are masking how f
Haas boss Steiner wouldn't expect a rook
Carey vows to maintain F1 "foundation" i
Alonso says Le Mans now his "priority" f
FIA's latest oil burning directive could
Lawrence Stroll not prepared to fund clo
Ferrari chairman more positive about agr
Red Bull advisor admits incidents are pa
Perez possibly the most underrated drive
Wolff: Mercedes' difficult start to 2018
Magnussen clarifies after stating he wou
2019 Miami GP could be on the cards as k
Brawn: Ricciardo became a "passenger" pr
Renault looking at options should Sainz
Red Bull has begun engine talks with Hon
Raikkonen reveals scary near-miss during
F1 Commission passes aero changes for 20
Hamilton critical of Vettel SC restart t
Red Bull drivers "screwed up" but won't
Gasly slams "most dangerous driver" Magn
Leclerc thrilled with first F1 points an
Alonso claims Baku recovery "one of my b
Bottas had "no idea" he had run over deb
Perez hails "best laps of my career" to
Hamilton: Baku win a reminder to never g
Vettel remaining upbeat despite losing A
Red Bull drivers put up united front aft
Azerbaijan GP: Hamilton inherits victory
Ricciardo reveals Q3 scare almost ended
Raikkonen regretful after error costs hi
Hamilton & Vettel ready for repeat of 20
Azerbaijan GP: Vettel scorches to third
Azerbaijan GP: Vettel jumps clear in dis
Azerbaijan GP: Ricciardo moves to the to
Hamilton offers insight into Vettel rela
Ricciardo refutes rumours of Ferrari agr