Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton was quickest for Mercedes in Friday's second practice session ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. In this picture, Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP gives fans a thumbs up during previews ahead of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 10, 2018, in Montmelo, Spain. Charles Coates/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton believes Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix will be a close affair between the top three teams — Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari — despite the latter struggling for pace during the first two practice sessions on Friday.

The Italian marque won the first two races of the season in Australia and Bahrain and were also in contention to win the next two races in China and Bahrain after Sebastian Vettel took pole position in both the races. But poorly timed safety cars in both the races took the win away from the Ferrari driver and handed it to Red Bull and Mercedes respectively.

They were expected to be in contention again in Spain, but it was Mercedes and Hamilton who dominated Friday's practice with Red Bull their closest challengers. Ferrari had a mixed day with Vettel finishing fourth fastest, while Kimi Raikkonen suffered a suspected engine failure in the latter stages of Practice 2.

However, Hamilton was not convinced with Ferrari’s lack of pace and suggested they could be "sandbagging" and will show their full hand on Saturday during Practice 3 and the qualifying session. He believes all three teams are relatively close and refused to predict who among them is the fastest at the moment.

“I think it’s still very close,” Hamilton said on Friday, as quoted on Planetf1.com. “Not really quite sure where Ferrari’s pace was today, but they’re probably sandbagging or something. They’ll bring it out tomorrow.”

“The Red Bull’s obviously very close to my pace, so I think, again, it’s going to be relatively close between the top three teams.

“I can’t really tell you which one’s quickest at the moment — because again, fuelling [levels], and maybe one didn’t get their lap or something like that. Tomorrow we’ll get a much better understanding,” the four-time F1 world champion added.

Vettel, meanwhile, did not seem overly concerned about Ferrari’s lack of pace and suggested the team have plenty of work to do before qualifying gets underway on Saturday. The German is confident they can turn it around and match the pace set by the Mercedes and Red Bull’s.

The 2018 season is panning out to be one of the most exciting campaigns in recent years with three teams at the top competing for race wins. Vettel admits that Ferrari could either end up on pole position or as far back as sixth place, which according to the four-time champion makes it more exciting even for the drivers.

“Today I think was okay. Car balance, I'm reasonably happy. We can improve. I know there's a little bit more in the car and a little bit more in me if I get everything together. So it should be okay tomorrow,” Vettel said after practice on Friday, as quoted on F1.com.

“Where we end up, I don't know. It's very close. It could be P1 or P6. But that's I think exciting.”