Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes that Ferrari’s strong pace on the long runs in Shanghai free practice could spell bad news for Nico Rosberg this weekend.
With Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel only three points behind Lewis Hamilton, and his Mercedes teammate Rosberg being 10 points off the lead, Villeneuve believes the increased threat from Ferrari means Rosberg is prone to being sacrificed when it comes to race strategy.
"It would be bad news for Nico," said Villeneuve. "Then they wouldn't allow their two drivers to fight openly any more. And it would be bad news for us as well."
Referring to the events in Malaysia, when Mercedes pitted Hamilton and Rosberg together under the safety car, Villeneuve said: "Obviously Mercedes didn't react very well to pressure.
"They stole all the strategists that Ferrari had, and they screwed up their strategy completely.
"They were also trying to be fair with their drivers, and you would never stop two cars the way they did. Now, they've probably decided not to be fair to their two drivers and do what they need to do to win."
Ferrari "made the right changes"
Speaking on the subject of Ferrari's new era under new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, Villeneuve is hugely positive about the future.
"They've made the right changes, it's become very open and human. And you've never seen that from Ferrari," he said.
"In the first two races, they were open and it felt like they were not lying to us – they were actually telling us exactly what was going on. All that energy, and it's come from Vettel arriving, it's helping them to perform, to be relaxed."
"Helping Kimi Raikkonen"
Villeneuve believes the arrival of Vettel has also helped Kimi Raikkonen, who was overshadowed previously by Fernando Alonso.
"It's helping Kimi Raikkonen, which Ferrari was needing, and now they have two drivers who are competitive," he said.
"Kimi's even talking on the radio, working with the engineers, and it's almost the first time in his career – that's a very positive thing."