Lewis Hamilton led the way at the end of both of the 90-minute practice sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit yesterday.
The reigning world drivers’ champion suggested Mercedes will be back in control for this race after Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel conjured one of the surprises of many a season with the team’s first victory for almost two years at the last race in Malaysia.
Many people expected another dominant Mercedes campaign in the wake of last season’s crushing success and thoroughly convincing win in the opening race in Australia.
Even Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff suggested Ferrari’s success was “a wake-up call” to his organisation.
Without doubt, Mercedes, and Hamilton in particular, responded as he initially finished 0.541 seconds quicker than team-mate Nico Rosberg at the end of FP1 when Pirelli’s medium-compound tyre was used.
Switching to the faster soft tyre for runs in FP2, Hamilton again comfortably had the edge by 0.443secs over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest, 1.093secs adrift, but only after taking to the track 40 minutes late due to issues.
It is yet to be determined whether they were the same problems that ultimately brought an end to team-mate Daniil Kvyat’s day.
As the young Russian exited the pits with 20 minutes remaining, his brakes caught fire, and although Kvyat attempted to return, he was eventually forced to pull off track.
Vettel was fourth on the timesheet, 1.120secs down, with Rosberg fifth after making a mistake on his fast lap on the soft tyres.
Kvyat still ended up sixth, followed by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Romain Grosjean in his Lotus.
McLaren’s Jenson Button completed the top ten, two seconds down as he and the team continue to show signs of improvement, with team-mate Fernando Alonso 12th and a further half a second off the pace.
Felipe Massa’s session, meanwhile, lasted 38 minutes as the Williams driver skidded off the track at the end of the longest straight in F1.
The Brazilian locked up on the approach to turn 14, losing the back end of the car and resulting in a slide on to the run-off area where he lost the left front-wing endplate after clipping a barrier.
Although Massa managed to keep the engine running and reversed his car, the endplate lodged under the left-front tyre, forcing him to abandon.
It resulted in the session being red-flagged for the car’s retrieval, with Massa ultimately finishing in 17th.
Manor duo Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens brought up the rear, the latter encountering issues with his power unit in FP2 which restricted him to just six laps.
Stevens will be hoping the problem can be resolved as he has already missed qualifying and the race in both Australia and Malaysia due to other difficulties.
Concerns over security at the track were raised after a “fan” ran across the track during the second practice session.
The local man, in possession of a grandstand ticket, initially scaled ten-foot high catchfencing that runs along the main straight opposite the pits.
With cars on track, the man then darted over the starting grid with a Force India approaching in the background before jumping up the pit wall into the pit lane and entering the Ferrari garage.
It was there he was finally grabbed by security staff and handed on to police for arrest – but not before apparently stating he wanted to try a car.
Motor sport’s governing body, the FIA, is currently looking into the matter, alongside the promoters and circuit officials.