With the qualifying format reverting back to the 2015 version, Nico Rosberg will look to put himself in the best position possible for a hat-trick of wins in this season's Formula One when the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai comes calling. The Mercedes driver has won the first two races of the season, and that too in impressive fashion.
Rosberg will also be helped by the fact that his closest rival – Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton – has been handed a five-grid penalty for changing his gearbox. That means no matter how high Hamilton finishes in qualifying, he will not be up there in the top two rows, putting the really-early pressure on Rosberg.
"It's going to be an easy weekend for Nico for sure," Hamilton was quoted as saying by F1's official website. "But it doesn't mean I can't give him a good run for his money from wherever I start.
"I'll be pushing as hard as I can and it doesn't mean I can't win the race still, which is my thought process, rather than damage limitation."
Going by the free practice times, the team that could do a lot of damage to a Mercedes one-two are Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheets in the second free practice on Friday. Raikkonen was impressive in the last race in Bahrain, finishing in between Rosberg and Hamilton, and Ferrari will hope Vettel also joins his teammate in cranking up the pressure, after the former champion failed to even start the race last time out owing to engine trouble.
Vettel is hopeful the engine worries are behind him as he looks for a win in Shanghai. "It was a little part that caused the problem and turned into the biggest possible consequence," Vettel said. "That was a shame. Obviously we have a new engine for this weekend and as I just said I don't expect that issue to come up again."
Another team hoping to do well will be Force India, after their disappointing performance in Bahrain. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez could only manage 15th and 16th place finishes in the last F1 race, but the latter believes, if rain comes pouring down at the Chinese GP, it could prove to be to Force India's advantage.
"Our car should be competitive in wet conditions, so actually I am looking forward to it," Perez told the Formula One website. "The season has not started so well for us, so there is plenty of reason that we should do better here. I am pretty optimistic for the weekend ahead."
Where to Watch Live
The Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying session is scheduled for a 3 p.m. local time (12.30 p.m. IST, 8 a.m. BST, 3 a.m. ET) start. Below is the TV and live streaming listings.
|India||Star Sports 4, Star Sports HD 4|
|United Kingdom||Sky Sports F1|
|Middle East and North Africa||Bein Sports Arabia|
|Germany, Italy||Sky Sport|
|India||Star Sports Online and Hotstar|
|US||NBC Sports Online|
|UK||Watch Sky Sports|
|Middle East||BeIN Sports Connect|
|Asia||Fox Sports Online|
|Italy||Sky Go Italy|
|Germany||Sky Go Germany|