With all the talk of change heading the first European race of the season, it was the same old story as Lewis Hamilton dominated Friday practice in Barcelona.
The Briton posted a 1:25.524 in the afternoon to give him a half second advantage over team-mate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes continued to be in a class of their own.
Some of the gap between the two Silver Arrows was due to Rosberg losing most of the morning session as an ERS problem kept the German in the garage.
Red Bull remained Mercedes closest competitors though for Sebastian Vettel it was a day to forget as the world champion completed just four laps before electrical problems brought his day to an end.
Across the garage all remained well as Daniel Ricciardo was consistently third quickest over a single lap and during the longer race simulation in the afternoon.
The track was very dusty on the first day of running, and the new power units with greater torque proved quite a handful around Catalunya’s long radius turns.
Every driver was struggling through the never ending turns at three and four while Campsa (turn nine) was also catching some drivers out. The increased torque was also having an impact in the complex towards the end of the lap with traction out of turn 10 as well as the stability into and out of the final chicane very hard to find.
In a weekend when most expected to see some changes in the pecking order, Ferrari appear to have slipped back a little compared to Shanghai. With President Luca di Montezemolo again in attendance the team remain comfortably the third best on the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen was also most closer to local hero Fernando Alonso but the pair never looked like challenging the two teams ahead.
The midfield is where much of the chopping and changing has taken place, McLaren look to have improved over a single lap leading the Mercedes customer teams while Lotus too have also made some gains.
In reality those teams and Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso are still covered by a very small margin with just a second covering Kevin Magnussen in sixth to Valtteri Bottas in 14th.
Over the race simulation again there appears to be little to choose but what is apparent is the teams like Force India and Williams could risk slipping back as the developmental race moves up a gear.
Sauber are closer to those ahead it seems as Adrian Sutil finished 13th on the day while Jules Bianchi really had an impressive day for Marussia easily beating team-mate Max Chilton, whose day was hampered by engine issues and a late trip in the gravel trap, and Caterham who look to have dropped behind their big rivals in the scrap for 10th in the Constructors standings.
Always set to be a big topic were the tyres after the four-stop farce from last year. As expected the two harder compounds are still taking a beating around the Barcelona track, particularly as the drivers struggle for grip.
It appears the three stop strategy Pirelli had hoped is the most likely though don’t rule out some try for just two trips to the pits as the medium compound was lasting for approaching 20 laps or just under a third of Sunday’s race distance.
The day though was all about Hamilton who looks completely at one with his renamed F1 W05 Hybrid, his long run pace was far ahead of what even Rosberg could achieve and it appears only a mechanical problem could stop the 2008 champion from taking a fourth straight win.
Ricciardo will improve as the car wasn’t where he wanted it during the brief qualifying simulation while Vettel will surely be in there somewhere, but it looks very unlikely that anything can derail the Mercedes express in 2014.
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