Despite Sebastian Vettel looking likely to take yet another pole position this season Mercedes AMG F1 turned things around as defending champion Lewis Hamilton took pole position with teammate Valtteri Bottas a very close second for the Spanish Grand Prix.
"It will be close", he said.
"The Ferraris have been sandbagging the last two days and then all of a sudden. where did they get all that pace?" It is a shame it is only four-hundredths, but it is good for the team.
"We recognise that this is only the start of the process and we will immediately get to work with the various community stakeholders, the City of Miami, the Port of Miami, Bayfront Park Management Trust and others, in order to reach a final agreement".
Mercedes have been the quickest, ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull, in a slight twist to the tale of 2018 so far. "Anything can happen really, just like the last couple of races". It's a return to the European season at a track the teams know well, having done their winter testing here.
"The mistake this morning was a costly one and I missed the final hour of the session because of it", Ricciardo said.
Although Alonso finished second practice down in 12th position - 1.7 seconds off the pace - he said the upgrade package was a clear step forward.
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Vettel ended the session third.
Romain Grosjean, who crashed under the safety vehicle in Azerbaijan, was the first to face trouble in the afternoon session, losing control of his Haas and getting stuck on the gravel.
Most teams brought significant updates for their cars to Barcelona as Formula One returned to Europe after races in Australia, Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan.
Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen suffered a power unit problem.
In cooler conditions, the session was brought to an early conclusion when New Zealander Brendon Hartley lost control of his Toro Rosso vehicle at Turn Nine and spun violently into the barriers. Such was the impact with the barriers that the gearbox snapped off when the vehicle was lifted from the gravel trap and there was no chance of getting the auto rebuilt in the two hours between the end of final practice and the start of Q1. The new record of 1:16.173 may go unbeaten for several years as 2019's regulation changes are expected to make the cars 1.5s slower.
Stroll almost hit the tire barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the first session. He also went into the gravel in practice earlier on Saturday and on Friday. He had to retire and lost a lot of track time.