The annual battle between the sport's two giants has taken on an unexpected complexion, with Mercedes anxious for a win in Shanghai on Sunday after Vettel stunned the champions with wins in both Australia and Bahrain.
The two teams have been closely matched in the opening two races, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel winning despite the Mercedes showing superior race pace in Australia and Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, with the top four cars on the timesheet separated by 0.108 seconds.
Verstappen claimed an incredible podium in changing conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit a year ago after starting from sixteenth on the grid, passing nine cars on the opening lap. So, I think tomorrow is going to be a close qualifying and then Sunday as well.
Hamilton said: "We performed well but Ferrari outperformed us".
"This (Chinese Grand Prix) is the third race so I don't have any worries, that's a weakness that an athlete can never allow to enter their mind", added Hamilton.
Elsewhere, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen continued his impressive early season form with a couple of strong drives, and the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg also finished inside the top 10 in both sessions.
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"So the mindset, the strength in which I have now, I wish I had then because it would have changed my life I would imagine back then". And the early ones on the quickest, ultrasoft tyres - before the focus switched to long runs - showed us just how tight things are between the leading teams.
China, every the followers and the monitor, have been selection to Hamilton over time with the Brit worthwhile on 5 occasions since 2008, along with victory remaining 12 months. Mercedes have won five of the last six races in China, the last four of them in succession.
"We just managed to fit in a longer stint before the rain came towards the end of the second session", he said.
Verstappen was the youthful promise when - at 17 in 2015 - he became the youngest driver to race in Formula One.
"I keep in mind it once more proper right here in 2007, it was unbearable the shortage of the world whampionship proper right here - the race after qualifying on pole and essential the Grand Prix (in Japan)".
"We gave each other, maybe not enough space (in Bahrain)", he said, "but that's racing".