SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Lewis Hamilton edged Kimi Raikkonen by 0.262s to top Friday's afternoon practice session, which saw the top five drivers covered by 0.5s.
Hamilton set a 1:44.753 to lead the session and swap positions with Raikkonen, who had beaten him to the fastest time in FP1. Mercedes is favoured this weekend due to the power-sensitive nature of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit but Ferrari will be encouraged by the gap to Hamilton from the afternoon's qualifying simulations.
The session was hit by a deluge of rain just after the completion of the qualifying simulations, which could be a sign of things to come with rain forecast for Sunday afternoon. With the prospect of rain mixing up proceedings for the grand prix, teams spent a long time working with the ultra-soft tyre to prepare for the possibility of a short stint in the dry. The rain cut short any meaningful race simulations, which traditionally follow the qualifying-style runs, meaning the teams have plenty of work to do in FP3 on Saturday morning.
Friday's running would suggest Mercedes has the edge on pace as predicted ahead of the weekend. Behind Raikkonen's second-place benchmark was Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes, 0.4s off his teammate. Bottas' flying lap included a lock-up at La Source, suggesting he failed to maximise his performance in the session. Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel finished within 0.6s of Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth, 1.3s off the pace. The Australian driver was quickest through sector one and three during the session but nearly 1.5s slower than his teammate in the middle portion of the circuit. While that could hint at a split in set-ups between the Red Bull drivers, the team will hope to build on the pace showed by both cars on Friday.
Nico Hulkenberg finished best of the rest for Renault, but his time was deleted after the session for exceeding track limits on the exit of Les Combes, leaving it uncertain whether he lost the position. Esteban Ocon kept himself in the top ten for Force India, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Jolyon Palmer, who will be hoping to turn an encouraging start into a first points finish of the season with pressure and speculation continuing to swirl around his future. Fernando Alonso finished 11th for McLaren, 1.9s of the pace, ahead of Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean.
Local driver Stoffel Vandoorne was 14th, 0.6s behind teammate Alonso, while Daniil Kvyat completed just 12 laps on route to 15th. Kevin Magnussen endured a scruffy session and had to settle for 16th, ahead of Williams' Lance Stroll, who carried out all the work for his team as it changed the chassis on the car damaged by teammate Felipe Massa in FP1.
Sauber pair Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein finished last of the drivers to complete a time, albeit over 4s off the pace of the lead car.