Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel headed Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in Chinese Grand Prix second practice.
Raikkonen was 0.109 seconds clear of his team-mate, with Rosberg 0.237secs off the pace as Ferrari hinted they may offer a threat to Mercedes in Shanghai.
Hamilton, with a five-place grid penalty as a result of a gearbox change, was 0.433secs off the pace.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.
Fernando Alonso, cleared to race after missing the last grand prix in Bahrain on medical grounds, was 11th quickest, just ahead of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.
Hamilton will attempt to reduce the 17-point deficit in the drivers’ championship to Rosberg in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, which is live on the Sport website and radio 5 live at 07:00 BST.
No more failures
There was no repeat of the spectacular left-rear failures that afflicted Williams’ Felipe Massa twice and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in the first session.
Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Massa were 10th and 14th after the team apparently solved the two wheel failures suffered by the Brazilian in the first practice session.
Williams head of performance Rob Smedley said the team were “fairly confident” they knew what the problem was, but refused to go into details. He said they had found a way to “contain” it.
Bottas said the team had found a problem with the “rim clearance” – the distance between the inside of the wheel and the wheel assembly.
Magnussen had joined Massa in having a problem with the left rear of his car in the first session, which turned out to be a suspension failure. He did not run in the second session as the team worked on a solution.
Better race pace for Mercedes
Ferrari’s pace in heading the Mercedes in the timesheets might appear to suggest that the red cars can challenge the silver ones over the weekend.
However, caution is advised as Ferrari have flattered to deceive already this season.
Vettel, for example, was fastest in final practice at the last race in Bahrain, only for the Mercedes cars to go half a second quicker than the Ferraris in qualifying.
“If we get everything right, we can potentially be a bit closer,” said Vettel afterwards. “But it is only Friday so I wouldn’t put too much importance in the times.”
Headline lap times can be misleading as teams can manipulate the fuel loads, while the times set on the race-simulation runs on heavier fuel loads can present a more accurate picture.
On these, Mercedes had a clear pace advantage, although Raikkonen appeared able to make the super-soft tyre on which the top teams will start the race last longer at a stronger pace than Rosberg and Hamilton.
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