Lewis Hamilton continued Mercedes’ resurgence as he finished fastest in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

A fortnight after George Russell took Mercedes’ first pole position of the season, before going on to claim the team’s sole podium from the opening nine rounds in Canada, the Silver Arrows were back on top at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Hamilton, who will leave Mercedes at the end of the season to join Ferrari, edged out Carlos Sainz by just 0.022 seconds, with Lando Norris occupying third place for McLaren.

Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull, 0.240secs adrift of Hamilton, with Russell eighth.

A series of upgrades propelled Mercedes to their best result of the year in Montreal as Russell and Hamilton crossed the line in third and fourth respectively.

And the team which once dominated the sport will take further encouragement from Hamilton’s form in Spain.

“We have taken a step forward with the car in recent races,” said Hamilton. “Everyone has worked so hard to get us to this point and make those incremental gains.

“We’ve got a clear direction of where we want to go moving forward, too, and we are starting to see that feed through to our performance on track.

Lewis Hamilton prepares for practice at the Spanish Grand Prix
Hamilton believes Mercedes are making real progress (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

“Hopefully we can continue the momentum from today into Saturday and get closer to our competitors ahead.”

Over at McLaren, Norris has taken four podium finishes in his last five outings, including his maiden win in Miami last month.

And the 24-year-old probably should have claimed another triumph last time out in Canada, but for a poor strategy call by his McLaren team during the rain-hit race.

However, the Bristolian, 63 points behind Verstappen, still believes the Red Bull driver can be caught in the race for the championship, and he topped the time charts in the opening running before finishing just 0.055 behind Hamilton later in the day.

Lando Norris finished fastest in first practice
Lando Norris finished fastest in first practice in Barcelona (Joan Monfort/AP)

Pierre Gasly was a surprise fourth for the Alpine – on the day that it was announced Flavio Briatore, the 74-year-old in charge of Renault during the Crashgate controversy, will return to the French team as an adviser.

Nelson Piquet Jnr was under instruction to crash by his team during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, which handed an advantage to team-mate Fernando Alonso who went on to win the race.

Briatore was handed a lifetime ban by the FIA after he was found guilty by Formula One’s governing body of ordering Piquet to crash. However, a French court later overturned the decision.

Earlier, British teenager Ollie Bearman ended the first session in 19th as he ramped up his preparations for Haas ahead of his likely promotion to a full-time seat with the American outfit next year.