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In Melbourne, Verstappen damaged his vehicle merely by running wide while chasing Kevin Magnussen, and a freak surge of horsepower apparently cooked his goose in qualifying on Saturday.

Second-placed Bottas had one nibble at Vettel's Ferrari on the last lap yet couldn't finish off the German.

The 33-year-old four-time world champion admitted earlier this week he had little idea how or why Ferrari had been able to out-perform Mercedes.

Red Bull's Verstappen made contact with Hamilton as he passed the Brit early in last week's race, although it was his own vehicle that was damaged to the point that he later had to retire. "So I know how it is. So you just put the experience behind you and take note of it and move on".

At a semester of play, both equally Verstappen and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne spun off into the gravel while Hamilton experienced a spin as drivers strove to access grips with the cooler trail temperature. "I don't see why not". But these things happen, there's no reason for me to change anything.

Verstappen got it wrong, touched wheels, got a puncture and was out of the race. I had a fair shot at it.

"There was nothing insane, nothing risky".

Hamilton added that next time he is left with work to do from the middle of the pack that he would opt for a more cautious approach.

"Yeah it was good, " Verstappen said. He said he might, but only "if it's really necessary".

But that won't lessen the tension on Sunday. "I think Mercedes are still the favourite going in but if we do our homework and get the vehicle balance right, it should be a good weekend".

Hamilton and Vettel will then go head to head on Sunday's race with proceedings starting at 7.10am. Mercedes have won five times in the last six Chinese Grands Prix, with Fernando Alonso in 2013 recording the last Ferrari victory in Shanghai.

Rain is possible for practice during qualifying on Friday and Saturday, but race day should be dry and chilly.

Designed by architects Hermann Tilke and Peter Wahl, the Shanghai International Circuit has the longest straight on the race calendar, where a good top speed is important.

Verstappen has taken Formula One by storm since making his debut as a 17-year-old with the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso team in 2015.

The race was won by Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari, giving him two straight victories after also taking the season-opener in Australia.

But he also started slowly last season, retiring in seven of the first 14 races. The former champions have finished on the podium in China in the last two years.

Replays of the incident showed that Verstappen was more at fault despite being given the room to pull off the overtaking maneuver which caused the collision.

"We gave each other, maybe not enough space (in Bahrain)", he said, "but that's racing".