Nico Rosberg continued on his strong run so far this season by topping the first practice session of the weekend, ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.
The German set a time of 1:38.037 in Shanghai, just one tenth clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, half a second down in P3.
Hamilton had led the session early doors, with a time set on the medium compound tyre that was two tenths clear of his team-mate, but after spinning twice at the same corner the Brit advised over team radio that “something is wrong, I keep having this locking into Turn 11“.
Rosberg too did not escape issues, when in the latter stages of Free Practice 1 the German reported to the team that he was in limp home mode, and the Mercedes engineers confirmed he could have an engine issue.
There was an early red flag in the FP1, when Felipe Massa spun his Williams at Turn 6. The Brazilian’s right rear tyre looked to come away from its rim, flinging gravel on to the track as he sailed backwards through the gravel trap. Massa was able to get back to the pits, but the debris now on circuit led to the brief red flag period. The Williams driver did return to the track later in the session, but in a bizarre turn of events, the left rear tyre of the FW38 deflated, and he was unable to record a time in FP1. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas ended the session down in P13. After completing investigations on both the Massa tyre failures, Pirelli advised that no puncture had been prevalent, with Williams believing that the wheel rims could be the source of the problem.
The drama did not stop there however, when a second red flag was brought out at around the 30 minute mark, after the Renault of Kevin Magnussen also suffered a left rear tyre deflation, with further debris being strewn across the track. The Dane also reported a suspension problem, just after the team had advised he may have brake issues. The amount of debris kept the red flag out until there was only eight minutes of the session remaining. Magnussen however, was unable to set a time.
When the session re-started, the track activity was hectic, all drivers headed out in the short time they had remaining; Rosberg was able to set the fastest time ahead of Hamilton on the soft rubber, whilst Vettel moved the SF16-H into third place.
Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth fastest, just over a second down on Rosberg’s lead time, whilst Kimi Raikkonen ended the session fifth in the second Ferrari. Daniil Kvyat finished in P6, ahead of Carlos Sainz, and Jenson Button, who finished P8 in the McLaren after using one of his extra sets of the super soft tyre, and was 1.9 seconds off the pace.
Nico Hulkenberg was the first of the Force India‘s in P9, ahead of Max Verstappen in the Toro Rosso, and the second Force India of Sergio Perez.
Fernando Alonso, who had been cleared to race in FP1 by the FIA this weekend but would still need to complete further tests to be confirmed for the race, ended the first practice session in P12.
Bottas was next up in the only Williams to set a time, ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Haas and Marcus Ericcson in the Sauber. Rio Haryanto was the fastest of the Manor Racing team cars in P16, ahead of Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Felipe Nasr in P19.
Esteban Gutierrez ended the session without setting a time, after problems with his engine caused the Mexican to spend the majority of FP1 in the pits, before Haas decided not to send him back out, bringing an early end to the former Ferrari Test drivers session.
Chinese Grand Prix FP1 Results
|1||6||Nico Rosberg ROS||Mercedes||1:38.037||16|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton HAM||Mercedes||1:38.183||+0.146s||16|
|3||5||Sebastian Vettel VET||Ferrari||1:38.665||+0.628s||12|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo RIC||Red Bull Racing||1:39.061||+1.024s||13|
|5||7||Kimi Räikkönen RAI||Ferrari||1:39.155||+1.118s||11|
|6||26||Daniil Kvyat KVY||Red Bull Racing||1:39.625||+1.588s||14|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz SAI||Toro Rosso||1:39.676||+1.639s||12|
|8||22||Jenson Button BUT||McLaren||1:39.974||+1.937s||11|
|9||27||Nico Hulkenberg HUL||Force India||1:40.169||+2.132s||13|
|10||33||Max Verstappen VES||Toro Rosso||1:40.232||+2.195s||13|
|11||11||Sergio Perez PER||Force India||1:40.347||+2.310s||15|
|12||14||Fernando Alonso ALO||McLaren||1:40.538||+2.501s||11|
|13||77||Valtteri Bottas BOT||Williams||1:40.828||+2.791s||10|
|14||8||Romain Grosjean GRO||Haas||1:41.358||+3.321s||9|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson ERI||Sauber||1:41.393||+3.356s||18|
|16||88||Rio Haryanto HAR||Manor||1:41.614||+3.577s||20|
|17||30||Jolyon Palmer PAL||Renault||1:41.816||+3.779s||16|
|18||94||Pascal Wehrlein WEH||Manor||1:42.908||+4.871s||14|
|19||12||Felipe Nasr NAS||Sauber||1:42.980||+4.943s||8|
|20||20||Kevin Magnussen MAG||Renault||6|
|21||21||Esteban Gutierrez GUT||Haas||2|
|22||19||Felipe Massa MAS||Williams|