Nico Rosberg went quickest in opening practice for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, eclipsing Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by two tenths of a second.
The Mercedes pair set their best times on the soft tyre, as did third-placed Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver ended the session almost 1.1s adrift of Hamilton, however. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth quickest, just under three tenths behind his team-mate. The Finn also set his best time on the soft tyre.
Red Bull Racing, meanwhile, chose to avoid the yellow-banded Pirelli compound during the session. The result was that while Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for the Renault-powered outfit he was 0.295 behind Raikkonen and 1.681 behind Hamilton. Team-mate Max Verstappen was sixth, just over two tenths further back.
Behind the Mercedes, Ferraris and Red Bulls came Force India, with Nico Hulkenberg taking seventh place, two seconds down on Hamilton’s benchmark and Sergio Perez eighth.
Fernando Alonso was ninth quickest though he his session was cut short when he hit the barriers early on and was forced to quit the session due to exhaust damage. He completed just 10 laps across the 90 minutes.
Tenth place in the session went to Valtteri Bottas, with the Williams man finishing just ahead of the twin Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Jenson Button was 13th in the second McLaren with Haas’ Romain Grosjean in P14. The Frenchman has a near miss midway through the session when he misjudged the Degner curves and went off into the gravel trap. He was lucky, however, in that he escaped damage, as his car barely touched nosed into the barrier, and he was able to reverse out of the gravel to rejoin the action.
2016 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.431 24
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.646 21
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.525 19
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:33.817 17
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.112 23
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:34.379 26
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:34.530 28
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:34.767 30
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.003 10
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:35.381 31
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:35.446 23
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.672 27
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.677 24
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:35.688 17
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:35.967 15
16 Felipe Massa Williams 1:36.169 23
17 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:36.219 21
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:36.294 19
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:36.822 30
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:37.797 29
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:37.966 24
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:37.992 13