"It's a good feeling, for sure, being a part of a race weekend after seven and a half years", said the Pole.
As the wind whipped around the track, he coped with the elements better than anyone else, with his time of 1:18.148 comfortably the quickest of the session. "We can still work on the vehicle and we should be stronger tomorrow".
Only six tenths separated the three teams at the end of the session, Hamilton setting the standard with a 1:18.259 lap.
The Spaniard, who is yet to qualify in the top 10 this year, added: "Overall I think we are little bit more competitive than any other Friday, so hopefully Q3 tomorrow for the first time is a real possibility".
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Teammate Kimi Räikkönen suffered a suspected engine problem half-way through the second session and didn't return to the track.
"The mistake this morning was a costly one and I missed the final hour of the session because of it", Ricciardo said. "We still don't know what happened, but we'll figure it out".
Kimi Raikkonen was the slowest of the drivers from the top three teams, surviving a run through the gravel at Turn 4 before bringing his auto into the pits with just under 40 minutes remaining with an unidentified problem.
Earlier, in the morning session, Robert Kubica made his first appearance since 2010 as a reserve driver for the Williams team.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean spun off the track at one stage but recovered to finish seventh-fastest in Catalunya, while McLaren's Fernando Alonso tested the medium tyres and super softs before he ended in 12th.
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The team had to make some modifications to Kubica's auto because the Polish driver doesn't have full movement of his right hand. What that does is it makes it very hard to find where the set-up needs to go.
Kubica was replacing Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin, who returned for second practice and was slowest in 1:22.060. "But I'm satisfied with the session and how I reacted to hard conditions and a hard balance".
The European leg of the 2018 F1 season kicked off under a clear blue Spanish sky and warms temperatures in Barcelona, with a session where everyone was eager to trial their various upgrades and updates.
Stroll almost hit the tyre barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the first session. Bottas and Vettel also span but were able to continue their runs without significant damage. Verstappen also went off the track, as did Raikkonen shortly before enduring the mechanical problem.
Force India too usually get stronger from the Spanish race and Sergio Perez indicated that could be the case again in 10th, just ahead of the second "pink panther" of Esteban Ocon.
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