• REPORT: Setting the Pace in Shanghai

Lewis topped the timesheets on the opening day of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, with team-mate Valtteri close behind at the Shanghai International Circuit.

What Happened?

-  Friday's duo of 90-minute practice sessions took place in overcast and windy conditions, with a sprinkling of rain appearing towards the end of the afternoon running.

-  Lewis got his weekend off to a promising start by ending FP1 fastest with a 1:33.999 on the Soft tyre, putting in 22 laps.

-  Valtteri also set his best time, a 1:34.457, on the Soft tyre. He lapped the track 28 times during the course of the session.

-  Both drivers sampled the UltraSoft tyre for the first time in FP2, completing Qualifying simulations before moving onto long runs.

-  Lewis returned to the top of the leaderboard in FP2, with the best of his 26 laps being a 1:33.482. He edged Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen by just 0.007 seconds.

-  Räikkönen's late Quali run demoted Valtteri to third, but the Finn was just 0.033 seconds off Lewis' benchmark. He managed 27 laps in FP2.

What Did We Learn?

It's been an encouraging start to the weekend for the team, completing plenty of mileage in practice. But, the battle at the front of the field looks as close as ever.

"We've had a fairly normal Friday programme here, a few test items on the cars for the early running but mainly we have been focussed on understanding the car balance and the tyre behaviour for Qualifying and the race," explained Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin.

"We only tried the Soft tyre during FP1 but the initial feedback from the drivers was quite encouraging and the car seemed to be working well. Shanghai is never an easy track to balance because there are so many different types of corner but overall we seemed to be in reasonable shape.

"FP2 saw us running all three tyres, both using UltraSoft but splitting the harder tyres so that Valtteri could focus on the Medium and Lewis on the Soft. We had concerns over the UltraSoft coming into this event but it was surprisingly consistent over the long runs.

"The Soft and Medium runs were cut short by the rain when it finally arrived although we managed to get a feel for the grip and balance and it seems that most of the other teams were also unable to complete their plans.

"The conditions are very cool today, similar to winter testing, and that does change the way the tyres behave. We are expecting more mixed weather tomorrow and our normal Qualifying preparation could be affected by a bit of rain in FP3. However, for Sunday the current forecasts show the sun coming out and we should get a much hotter track.

"It's clear that ourselves, Red Bull and Ferrari are closely matched on pace and, as always, they will be improving their cars overnight so we will be working with our usual diligence to try and find every last bit of performance."

What Did the Drivers Think?

Lewis: "When I got to Shanghai the weather was really good, but it's gone downhill - now we got the rain and it's cold.

"But it has been a good day, we got through all the laps that we needed and got some good feedback about the car.

"All the tyres here are quite similar in pace, so there's not a big difference between them even though we have the double step between the Soft and the UltraSoft.

"The balance of the car is good but we have some fine-tuning to do on it tonight. Ferrari were quick and Red Bull looked really fast on the long run.

"It's good to see all the times so close, but it means that we really need to bring our A game. We need everyone in the team to be on it throughout the weekend because it is a joint effort."

Valtteri: "It's good that the rain didn't come until the end of the session because the race is expected to be dry. The track improved a lot over the course of the day, even during the sessions.

"Lap after lap you could just feel more and more grip but that's quite usual for this track. We're expecting tomorrow morning to be a little bit trickier after the rain, and hopefully the conditions will improve for Qualifying.

"We had some issues with the balance in the morning; the car was quick, but it wasn't easy to drive. We changed the set-up for FP2 and saw the lap times improve; hopefully we can make another step forward for tomorrow.

"Overall, we got some good running and plenty of information, so I'm feeling all set for tomorrow. It looks like it will be extremely close again with Ferrari, both in Qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday."