The Spanish Grand Prix weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya begun with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team showing they still have a dramatic advantage, at least over one lap.
Nico Rosberg ended the session with the fastest time, with his 1m26.828s just 0.070s faster than team-mate and current championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who is looking for his fourth win of 2015 whereas Rosberg is seeking his first.
Such was the pace advantage of the two Mercedes, most noticeably in the final sector of the lap, third placed Sebastian Vettel was almost one second adrift in his Scuderia Ferrari, with the German just 0.026s faster than his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in fourth.
One team who showed well during the session was the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, who despite historically having a torrid time at the Circuit de Catalunya, ended the first session fifth and sixth, with Carlos Sainz Jr ahead of Max Verstappen. Sainz has now finished inside the top eight of every opening free practice session of the season so far.
Whereas Toro Rosso would be happy with their session, the drivers at their sister team at Infiniti Red Bull Racing would be less so, with both Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo suffering more mechanical issues.
Kvyat ended the session seventh but completed only seven laps, while Ricciardo was ninth having completed nine laps after another troubled session with the Australian complaining on his out lap early in the session of a throttle issue.
Felipe Massa was the leading of the Williams Martini Racing drivers in eighth position, but was more than two seconds slower than the pace of the leading Mercedes.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas sat out the session to allow Development driver Susie Wolff to have her first outing of the season, with the Scottish lady ending up fourteenth fastest, 0.877s slower than her more experienced team-mate.
The top ten was completed by the leading Sauber F1 Team driver of Felipe Nasr, who also had a test driver as a team-mate during the session in the form of GP2 ace Raffaele Marciello, with the Italian ending the session in twelfth, less than half a second shy of Nasr.
Nico Hulkenberg was the best of the Sahara Force India drivers in eleventh, while team-mate Sergio Perez struggled to seventeenth.
Lotus F1 Team third driver Jolyon Palmer was thirteenth as he took over Romain Grosjean’s car for a third consecutive event, having done so in both China and Bahrain, and for the first time was able to outpace Pastor Maldonado, although the Venezuelan driver completed only seven laps, the joint least of anyone along with Kvyat, in finishing eighteenth.
McLaren-Honda may have come to Spain with a new livery, but the expected pace improvement did not materialise, with Fernando Alonso ending the session fifteenth, just 0.004s ahead of team-mate Jenson Button in sixteenth. Alonso also managed a quick spin during the session at the exit of turn twelve, but was able to keep going without too much bother.
Will Stevens continued to beat Roberto Merhi to be the best of the two Manor F1 Team drivers, but the gap has closed in Spain to just under two-tenths of a second. Both drivers are still well over five seconds adrift of the ultimate pace however as they continue to use their modified 2014 Marussia cars.
The second free practice session takes place later this afternoon, with Bottas, Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson getting their first runs of the weekend, while everyone will be hoping to see the gap to Mercedes reduced up front.
Spanish Grand Prix Free Practice 1 Times
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||1m28.132s|
|6||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso-Renault||1m28.529s|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull-Renault||1m28.785s|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Renault||1m29.075s|
|11||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1m29.409s|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1m30.096s|