Defending Chinese Grand Prix race-winner Nico Rosberg has led a Mercedes team 1-2 on the timesheets in the opening practice session at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The German led home teammate Lewis Hamilton by almost half a second, comfortably clear of fueding Red Bull Racing duo Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who were roughly a second shy of Rosberg’s quickest lap time of 1:36.717.
The field of 22 cars ran few laps in the opening 90-minute session, as each driver stayed in the garage in the hope that someone else would help to clean up the track surface, as well as save their Medium-compound Pirelli tyres for later in the weekend.
Once the action did get going, Rosberg put in a lower-fuel run in his Mercedes to move to the top of the timesheets ahead of early pace-setter Felipe Massa, and then do likewise again when Webber briefly moved to quickest overall.
Having laid low with allergies yesterday, Hamilton kept up his solid early-season pace with the second-fastest overall time, almost half a second faster than Webber managed in the Red Bull RB7. The Australian’s teammate Vettel was a further three-tenths adrift.
Fernando Alonso was fifth-quickest in his Ferrari, about a tenth faster than Jenson Button, who showed rather improved pace in his McLaren as the team brought a host of upgraded parts to try out on the troublesome MP4-28.
The Mexican couldn’t match Button’s pace in the sister car, finishing ten spots lower and over 1.3 seconds slower than Button.
Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil, Romain Grosjean and Paul di Resta completed the top-ten positions, while former Chinese Grand Prix winner Kimi Räikkönen was just outside in eleventh-fastest, having suffered a quick spin at Turn 9 in his Lotus.
The midfield again saw a close fight between Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso, while Jules Bianchi again had the honours among the two cellar-dweller teams – Marussia and Caterham – leading home teammate Max Chilton to finish nineteenth and twentieth-fastest respectively, although almost two seconds off the pace of the next runner.
Bottom of the timesheets was Caterham test driver Ma Qing Hua – standing in for regular driver Charles Pic – who made history with his first FP1 appearance on home soil. The Shanghai-born driver had a few FP1 outings last year with the now-defunct HRTF1 Team, but performed sensibly on his first outing behind the wheel of the team’s CT03 challenger.
The second free practice session gets underway at 2:00PM local time (GMT+8).
2013 Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:36.717||21|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:37.171||+ 0.454||20|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:37.658||+ 0.941||21|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:37.942||+1.225||20|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:37.965||+ 1.248||17|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:38.069||+ 1.352||24|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:38.095||+ 1.378||14|
|8.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:38.125||+ 1.408||21|
|9.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:38.398||+ 1.681||17|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:38.561||+ 1.844||15|
|11.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:38.790||+ 2.073||16|
|12.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:39.057||+ 2.340||19|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:39.158||+ 2.441||22|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:39.180||+ 2.463||21|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:39.336||+ 2.619||19|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:39.360||+ 2.643||20|
|17.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:39.392||+ 2.675||21|
|18.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:40.032||+ 3.315||22|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:41.966||+ 5.249||16|
|20.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:42.056||+ 5.339||18|
|21.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:42.083||+ 5.366||21|
|22.||Ma Qing Hua||Caterham Renault CT03||1:43.545||+ 6.828||20|