Pirelli are bringing their red-walled tyres to China for the first time, and the front of the grid is likely to start the race on them, given their speed advantage in qualifying. That, though, could lead to some very early pit stops, especially if degradation at Shanghai proves more pronounced than in Bahrain, where three-stopping was the default strategy.
"The Shanghai circuit places an entirely different duty on tyres relative to Melbourne and Bahrain," said Paddy Lowe, Mercedes executive director (technical).
"However, we have the same three compounds available, so it will be interesting to see how the competitive order plays out.
"It's the first time we'll see the supersoft compound used at this track, thanks to the new regulations, and that will likely create a more extreme example of what we saw in Bahrain, where the best qualifying tyre is unlikely to be a great race tyre.
"Every team is bound to want to qualify on the supersoft - but if it grains in the race, we could see cars stopping in the first five laps. There will be plenty of analysis to do on Friday and we could see some interesting calls on qualifying and race strategy."
Lowe said the changeable climate in China could complicate the picture even further, adding: "What makes this all the more difficult for the teams is the unpredictability of the conditions. It can be quite warm in Shanghai - but it can also be as cool as Belgium.
"That variability can make life tricky in terms of both set-up and strategy work, so it's always a challenging weekend."
Mercedes have dominated in China in recent seasons, with Nico Rosberg winning in 2012 and Lewis Hamilton victorious in the last two editions of the race.