Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were first and second for Ferrari as they beat Mercedes in the second Friday Practice for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg was third ahead of Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes face a challenge to avoid being outqualified for the first time since Singapore last year. Hamilton already has a five place grid penalty after Mercedes had to change a gearbox.
To add to the relative woes of Mercedes, Ferrari also looked like they had the edge on long run pace as it began to look like they could overhaul the Silver Arrows. Whether or not that pace stays true throughout the weekend remains to be seen – Rosberg has won each of the last five races and Mercedes were top of the first practice session.
The first session saw concern as Felipe Massa had two punctures, later found to be wheel rim failures, while Kevin Magnussen had a suspension failure and puncture. It is unknown which of those problems came first, and these incidents brought about a stoppage of 30 minutes.
Pirelli said the Williams failures were caused by a collapse of the wheel rim, with Massa on each occasion having his problems before turn 6.
However, a Williams spokeswoman said: “We had two rim failures but I can’t tell you if they were exactly the same. The engineers are looking into what caused them. Contact from somewhere but not sure how at this stage.”
Pirelli felt a “mechanical failure” on Magnussen’s car caused his suspension failure, although that wasn’t confirmed by Renault.
Fernando Alonso, who was cleared to race following a rib fracture, was 11th ahead of teammate JEnson Button as McLaren had a solid if unspectacular day.
Reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne scored their first point of the season when replacing Alonso following his accident in Melbourne with a tenth place finish.