Lewis Hamilton may have grumbled about his Mercedes in practice for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, but he still managed to again outpace his rivals.

"Something's not right with this car," moaned Hamilton late in the second 90-minute session at a chilly Shanghai International Circuit where temperatures only managed to reach 16 degrees centigrade.

Regardless, Hamilton, winner of the last two races in Malaysia and Bahrain, topped the timesheet for the third time in the four Friday outings this season, finishing with a lap of one minute 38.315secs.

Remarkably, it was not Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg who was out in front with the Briton on this occasion as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso managed to split the duo.

With Marco Mattiacci in town on the first day of his new job as team principal of Ferrari, Alonso chose the perfect opportunity to prove the Prancing Horse is alive and kicking this season.

Just 12 days ago Alonso crossed the finishing line at the end of the race in Bahrain sarcastically punching the air in delight following a ninth-place finish, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen 10th.

That came on the day president Luca Di Montezemolo visited the paddock for the first time this season, and he was naturally left far from impressed.

Eight days later, and Stefano Domenicali announced his resignation as team principal, ending just over six seasons in charge, during which time Ferrari collected only one trophy.

In Domenicali's place, Di Montezemolo has seemingly made an unusual appointment in Mattiacci as the 43-year-old has no experience of F1, although is understood to be a skilled manager given his previous role as president and CEO of Ferrari North America.

With Mattiacci in the paddock, wearing sunglasses throughout despite the leaden skies over the track, Alonso was quickest in FP1 and only 0.141secs behind Hamilton in FP2.

Championship leader Rosberg, 11 points clear of Hamilton, was four tenths of a second adrift, followed closely by Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull.

The Australian, eager to put behind him the team's failed appeal this week against his disqualification from the season-opening race in Australia, was 0.496secs down.

Notably, Ricciardo was again ahead of reigning four-time champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel who was exactly seven tenths of a second down.

Williams' Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari were sixth and seventh quickest, both inside a second of Hamilton.

The Finn, who had been consigned to the garage for all but one installation lap in FP1 due to a technical problem, at least managed 25 laps in FP2.

McLaren's Jenson Button, the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso of Daniel Kvyat completed the top 10, all just over a second down on Hamilton.

There was embarrassment for the second Lotus driven by Pastor Maldonado, however, as he crashed on the entry lane into the pits.

It is an area that has occasionally caught out some in the past, most notably in 2007 when Lewis Hamilton slid off and beached his car in the gravel when he had that year's world title in his grasp.

Venezuelan Maldonado was simply returning to the pits, but with too much speed as he ran across the gravel and into the tyre wall.

Marussia's Max Chilton, who has so far finished all 22 of the grands prix in which he has competed, was down in 20th, with both Caterhams behind him.