Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has been cleared to compete in Shanghai. The McLaren driver missed a race after fracturing ribs in a horrific accident in Melbourne. On track on Friday, Ferrari set the pace.
The FIA medical team on Friday cleared Alonso to race at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, albeit advising the driver to immediately stop his car if he experiences "any abnormal symptoms."
"As a result of a medical examination undertaken following Free Practice One … Fernando Alonso is fit to take part in all remaining sessions this weekend," an FIA statement said. "However, as with this morning's session, in case of any abnormal symptoms the driver has been informed that he must stop his car immediately."
Alonso walked away from a major crash at the season-opener in Melbourne, fracturing his ribs in the impact. He said he was "lucky to be alive" after launching off the back of Esteban Gutierrez's car. Alonso missed the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago as a result, with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne driving a hugely impressive debut in the Spaniard's stead.
"The pain level is zero," Alonso said in Shanghai. "I feel 100 percent. If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't fly here."
Ferrari fastest in FP2, despite Kimi's complaints
For only the third session of the season so far, Mercedes were bested to the top of the timesheets in Friday's second practice session. Kimi Räikkönen went quickest for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel second; Nico Rosberg was roughly a quarter of a second adrift, ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in fourth. Vettel, however, was keen to minimize the importance of lap times prior to qualifying.
"Friday's not that important in terms of position, it's more in terms of feel," Vettel said. "And the feel was OK, but OK is not good. I think we can still improve, especially the balance of the car."
Vettel's teammate Räikkönen went even further than the German's subtle call for improvement over his in-car radio while on track, calling back to the pits moments before setting Friday's fastest lap to ask: "Do you really want me to keep going? Because it's absolutely s***."
Teams tend to focus primarily on preparing for race day in Friday free practice, usually devoting more time to slower running on heavy fuel loads than gunning for fast laps with an empty tank.
Rosberg, who has won the opening two races of the season, carries an advantage over his Mercedes teammate Hamilton this weekend. Hamilton will have to endure a five-place grid penalty on race day, the upshot of him changing his gearbox after Bahrain. The reigning champion has said he will still be aiming for the win despite the prospect of starting sixth or lower. Ferrari, meanwhile, will be aiming for their first double-finish of the season; Räikkönen retired early in Melbourne, Vettel's engine gave out on the installation lap in Bahrain.