Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the opening free practice session at the Red Bull Ring, ending comfortably faster than Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Both drivers head into this weekend with new power units, with in Hamilton’s case this being his fifth of the season, meaning the introduction of another new unit later in the season would bring an automatic grid penalty.
Rosberg set the bar during the session when the attention began to focus on the Ultrasoft Pirelli compound, being used for the first time on a non-street circuit this weekend around the Austrian circuit, with the German’s time of 1:07.373 0.357 seconds clear of Hamilton.
Hamilton also suffered a spin during the session at turn three, and was narrowly avoided by the Haas of Romain Grosjean, who was forced to spin as the Briton slid back onto the track, while Rosberg also had an off-track moment at the same corner.
Behind the Mercedes duo came the Scuderia Ferrari pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, although neither were able to get within six-tenths of a second of Rosberg’s pace setting time. Vettel was 0.649 seconds shy in third, with Raikkonen a further 0.200 seconds behind in fourth.
Daniel Ricciardo ended the session in fifth in the leading of the Red Bull Racing entries, but the Australian was more than a second adrift of the pace and was another one to have an off-track moment, although his best time was set on the Supersoft tyre rather than the Ultrasoft.
Carlos Sainz Jr ended up an impressive sixth for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, just ahead of the leading Williams Martini Racing entry of Felipe Massa.
The second Red Bull of Max Verstappen was eighth, but the Dutchman had a messy session overall, breaking an end-plate of his front wing after hitting the kerbs at turn eight, and then damaged his steering as he struck the kerbs again at turn six that saw him end his session in the gravel trap.
Daniil Kvyat was ninth in the second Toro Rosso ahead of the second Williams of Valtteri Bottas, with Grosjean eleventh ahead of Sahara Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, while the two McLaren-Honda’s of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were next up, both around two seconds slower than the pace of Rosberg up front.
Kevin Magnussen was the best placed of the Renault Sport F1 drivers in fifteenth, just ahead of Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor Racing machine, with the second Renault of Jolyon Palmer just behind.
Marcus Ericsson cost Ricciardo some time when he got sideways as he tried to stay out of the way on the inside of turn eight on his way into the pits, with the Swede crossing the white line as a result, putting Ericsson under investigation from the stewards.
The Sauber F1 Team driver ended up eighteenth fastest, just ahead of the second Haas of Esteban Gutierrez and team-mate Felipe Nasr, while Rio Haryanto and Force India reserve driver Alfonso Celis Jr, in for Sergio Perez for the session, propped up the times.
Red Bull Ring Free Practice 1 Times
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:08.528||35|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:08.803||34|
|8||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:08.962||21|
|9||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:08.990||32|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1:09.280||43|
|22||34||Alfonso Celis Jr||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1:10.860||37|