Rosberg leads Hamilton in opening Suzuka practice

Nico Rosberg - Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Nico Rosberg was the pacesetter in opening practice for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team once again had a significant advantage on Friday morning.

Rosberg set a lap of 1:32.431 to put himself at the head of the timing screens, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton the only driver to get within a second of that time.

Hamilton’s best lap was 0.215 seconds shy, but third placed Sebastian Vettel, a four time winner at Suzuka and a driver who has stood on the podium in Japan for the past seven seasons, was 1.094 seconds down in the leading Scuderia Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen was almost three-tenths of a second down on his Ferrari team-mate in fourth, while last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix victor, Daniel Ricciardo, was 1.681 seconds off the pace in fifth in the leading Red Bull Racing entry, with his team-mate Max Verstappen sixth. The only saving grace for the two Red Bull’s was that their best times were set on the Medium compound of tyre rather than the Softs that those in front of them ran.

Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez placed seventh and eighth respectively for their Sahara Force India team, although both were over two-seconds down on Rosberg.

Fernando Alonso continued to run with the upgraded Honda power unit on Friday morning and finished ninth fastest, but the McLaren driver only completed ten laps after spinning off at Spoon curve, hitting the barrier with his rear wing. He recovered to the pit lane but damage to his exhaust meant that his session was over.

Valtteri Bottas completed the top ten for Williams Martini Racing, just ahead of the Scuderia Toro Rosso duo of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr, while the second McLaren of Jenson Button was thirteenth.

Romain Grosjean completed the session in fourteenth but only after an off-track excursion of his own at the second Degner corner, where he ran across the gravel trap and tapped the barrier. He was able to reverse out of the predicament and recovered to the pits, but possible more braking issues for the Haas F1 Team driver.

Felipe Nasr and Felipe Massa, were fifteenth and sixteenth for the Sauber F1 Team and Williams respectively, ahead of the second Haas of Esteban Gutierrez and the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, while Kevin Magnussen was nineteenth for the Renault Sport F1 team ahead of the two Manor Racing machines of Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein.

Jolyon Palmer ended the session at the bottom of the time sheets after completing just thirteen laps during the session after an electrical fault on his Renault.

Suzuka International Racing Course Free Practice 1 Result

16Nico RosbergGERMercedes1:32.431
244Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes1:32.646
35Sebastian VettelGERFerrari1:33.525
47Kimi RaikkonenFINFerrari1:33.817
53Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull-Tag Heuer1:34.112
633Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull-Tag Heuer1:34.379
727Nico HulkenbergGERForce India-Mercedes1:34.530
811Sergio PerezMEXForce India-Mercedes1:34.767
914Fernando AlonsoESPMcLaren-Honda1:35.003
1077Valtteri BottasFINWilliams-Mercedes1:35.381
1126Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso-Renault1:35.446
1255Carlos Sainz JrESPToro Rosso-Renault1:35.672
1322Jenson ButtonGBRMcLaren-Honda1:35.677
148Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas-Ferrari1:35.688
1512Felipe NasrBRZSauber-Ferrari1:35.967
1619Felipe MassaBRZWilliams-Mercedes1:36.169
1721Esteban GutierrezMEXHaas-Ferrari1:36.219
189Marcus EricssonSWESauber-Ferrari1:36.294
1920Kevin MagnussenDENRenault1:36.822
2031Esteban OconFRAManor-Mercedes1:37.797
2194Pascal WehrleinGERManor-Mercedes1:37.966
2230Jolyon PalmerGBRRenault1:37.992