Lewis Hamilton set the pace in Friday's second practice, a session that saw the top eight separated by less than half a second.
The McLaren driver, who won the previous race in Abu Dhabi, is determined to end his season of "growth" with a fourth grand prix victory and perhaps signalled his intent on Friday afternoon.
Hamilton clocked a 1:13.392 during a short-distance run to take to the top of the timesheets ahead of reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel. The German, who was also on a shorter run, was 0.167s off the pace.
However, on the long distance runs, which both Hamilton and Vettel embarked on in the latter stages of FP2, it was the Red Bull racer who seemed to have the edge - although lap times are dependent on fuel loads.
Mark Webber was third quickest, a further 0.028s adrift while Fernando Alonso, with a new used engine in the back of his F150, brought his car home in fourth place.
Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were next in line ahead of Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. But even though Rosberg was P8, the Mercedes GP driver was only 0.480s slower than Hamilton.
Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta completed the top ten for Force India with both drivers needing a good result to help secure their future with the team.
Sergio Perez was the only driver who failed to see the chequered flag as he stopped out on track with 11 minutes remaining, telling his Sauber team "I have no gears."
The Mexican rookie was lucky to avoid an accident as he stopped on an incline and initially started rolling backwards down the hill after Juncao before finally came to a complete standstill.
01. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.392 35 laps
02. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m13.559 + 0.167 41 laps
03. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m13.587 + 0.195 41 laps
04. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m13.598 + 0.206 35 laps
05. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m13.723 + 0.331 38 laps
06. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m13.750 + 0.358 39 laps
07. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.787 + 0.395 36 laps
08. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m13.872 + 0.480 42 laps
09. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m14.144 + 0.752 41 laps
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m14.807 + 1.415 48 laps
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m14.856 + 1.464 38 laps
12. Bruno Senna Renault 1m14.931 + 1.539 37 laps
13. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m14.970 + 1.578 32 laps
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m15.019 + 1.627 45 laps
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.264 + 1.872 44 laps
16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.388 + 1.996 41 laps
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m15.679 + 2.287 43 laps
18. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m15.903 + 2.511 40 laps
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m16.298 + 2.906 36 laps
20. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m16.338 + 2.946 48 laps
21. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m18.031 + 4.639 39 laps
22. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m18.051 + 4.659 45 laps
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m18.367 + 4.975 42 laps
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m18.476 + 5.084 42 laps