Lewis Hamilton set the pace in second practice at the Austrian Grand Prix to give Mercedes hope of clawing back some lost ground to Red Bull.
Hamilton beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.189 seconds, while title rival Max Verstappen was 0.217secs back.
Red Bull’s Verstappen moved 18 points clear of Hamilton in the championship after dominating Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix on the same Red Bull Ring track.
The Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth.
Overall, the picture looked much more positive for Mercedes than it did a week ago.
In the hotter conditions last weekend, Mercedes always looked to be behind Red Bull from Friday practice onwards.
This weekend, Verstappen was quickest in first practice, but Mercedes were ahead in the afternoon on a single lap and Bottas had the edge over Verstappen over the race-simulation runs later in the second session, when the teams go out with full fuel tanks.
Hamilton was not as convincing on the race runs – he was running neck and neck with Verstappen’s pace until he made a mistake, locked his front wheels and slid off into the gravel at Turn Four.
He managed to get back on to the track but returned to the pits for his car to be cleaned up and managed to get out again for some more race preparation.
Hamilton said: “They have definitely got some extra in their bag, I already know that. We have made some small progress today but I think they still had the 0.2secs [they had last weekend], or maybe 0.15secs.
“We have definitely made some small steps forward but not enough. Over a single lap, that felt pretty good.
“I just expect them to turn up a little bit more tomorrow. They’ve almost got like the qualifying mode we used to have. I said to my guys: ‘I don’t know where they get it from.’ But we have to work hard to try to match them.’
“I’m generally happy with where the car is and I’m probably not going to change much [except] the tiniest of tweaks.”
Behind the top five, an unusual day when teams were also testing a prototype tyre for Pirelli that is set to be introduced for the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time made it difficult to get a clear read on performance.
The Alpha Tauris of Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly were sixth and seventh, ahead of the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Norris also had an off, spinning as he went wide over the kerbs on the exit of Turn One and wrecking his tyres late in the session.
“What damage do you have?” he was asked by his engineer. “Talent,” he jokingly replied.
Leclerc also had an off, spinning when he turned in from the kerb on the entry to the fast Turn Nine, but managing to keep the car out of the wall.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez was only 11th fastest, the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc only 13th and 16th, the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo only 15th, and Williams driver George Russell 17th.