Toro Rosso were in optimistic mood in China on Friday, after a positive start to the weekend persuaded the team that Shanghai wasn't going to be a repeat of last year's gloomy Chinese Grand Prix for the squad.

"Last year, the Chinese weekend did not go so well for us and I can say we have made a better start this time round," said Jean-Eric Vergne after Friday's two 90-minute free practice sessions. "I am quite confident we can be quicker."

Vergne posted the 12th fastest time in the morning session, but slumped a little to 15th in the afternoon times despite improving his laptime by almost a second - something that Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso's head of vehicle performance, said the team would look into overnight.

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"Overnight, we therefore will study the data carefully to select the best aspects from the two cars," he said. "This afternoon, Jev was slightly less happy than in the morning and we will also investigate that, but in general, we are making some progress and we hope to continue in that direction tomorrow."

Vergne's team mate Ricciardo echoed the team sentiment that things were looking up for Toro Rosso in China this season.

"We were a little bit pessimistic coming here after how we performed in this race last year," the Australian admitted. "But after today, I am feeling happier, because we definitely look to be in better shape this time."

Unlike Vergne, Ricciardo made definite advances in the afternoon - not only moving up a spot in the timings but also shaving off a full two seconds on his FP1 time along the way.

"Another good point is that we made progress between FP1 and FP2 today," he agreed. "It's still not enough if we want to catch our closest rivals, but we are moving in the right direction."

Both drivers were well aware of the importance of tyre management at Shanghai this weekend, with Ricciardo explaining the difference between the two Pirelli compounds on offer to the team in China.

"The soft [option] was very good over a single flying lap and I was quite happy with the performance advantage it produced compared to the [harder] prime," he said. "On the longer runs the tyres suffer a bit more and there are already plenty of marbles on the track, but we always expected to see quite high degradation here."

"It looks as though the tyres will have a tough time here, especially the softs," agreed Vergne. "But it's the same for everyone, so no real concern there."