Nico Rosberg drew first blood in the hills of Austria after heading teammate Lewis Hamilton in Free Practice One ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The German stole the initiative as the Formula One fraternity returned the Red Bull Ring (formally the A1 Ring) for the first time since 2003, with Rosberg setting the pace with a time of 1:11.295.
The second Mercedes of Hamilton lay 0.140 second shy of Rosberg’s best efforts on the soft compound tyre. Behind the usual suspects in 1st and 2nd was the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, putting in an unexpected charge to be best of the rest come the end of the 90 minute session.
Williams’ Felipe Massa wound up 4th, fresh from the controversy of Canada, and just ahead of early-session pacesetter Jenson Button, with the Brit running a series of upgrades on his MP4-29 -eventually ending up 0.5 of a second shy of Rosberg’s ultimate pace.
Absent from the sharp-end of proceedings was home team Red Bull Racing, with Canadian Grand Prix victor Daniel Ricciardo sitting 13th on the timesheets. Sebastian Vettel, after recovering from a hairy spin on the exit of the final corner, ended the session 15th.
The session was far from smooth in terms of weather conditions, with unpredictable wind direction and spots of rain in the bosom of the Austrian Alps threatening to ruin the teams’ invaluable set-up time up and down the grid.
One driver that couldn’t turn to the weather for an excuse was Adrian Sutil, as the German suffered with a broken hose and reduced turbo input right from the get-go. His session was ran after just nine laps, and helped continue Sauber’s horrific form thus far this season.
Out front though it was business as usual, as Rosberg and Hamilton set the stage (once again) for a titanic battle in the hills of Austria.