Reigning World Champions Mercedes has set the pace in the first practice session of the Russian GP this morning, with championship leader Nico Rosberg comfortably shading teammate Lewis Hamilton by seven-tenths of a second.

Rosberg, who set his fastest time of 1:38.127 on the Super Soft compound, looked superior all session long as Hamilton – who also ran the Super Softs on his best lap – never really threatened the top spot and also suffered two losses of control of his car.

The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen set the third and fourth fastest times respectively, with both using the Soft compound; Vettel’s time was only a quarter of a second down on Hamilton. The Italian team trialed a number of aerodynamic upgrades while also running a modified engine.

Williams once again showed promising potential on this track, as Felipe Massa came fifth and teammate Valtteri Bottas came seventh, split by Daniel Ricciardo.

Red Bull trialled their ‘Aeroscreen’ cockpit protection concept on Ricciardo’s car as he took the device for an installation lap before taking it off and continuing on the rest of his programme. The Australian set the sixth-fastest time, splitting the two Williams and two spots ahead of home favourite teammate Daniil Kvyat.

Force India’s Sergio Pérez was ninth, while the team’s junior driver Alfonso Celis Jr – deputising for Nico Hülkenberg – languished at the bottom of the timing screen, over five seconds off the pace.

Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten for Scuderia Toro Rosso, ahead of the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Having just confirmed on Renault’s ever-growing list of test drivers, Sergey Sirotkin drove Kevin Magnussen’s RS16 to thirteenth-fastest on the Super Soft tyres while team regular Jolyon Palmer was 18th on the yellow-marked Soft tyres, eight-tenths slower than Sirotkin who also lost some track time with suspension trouble.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr ran with a new chassis this weekend and finished the session fourteenth-fastest ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, who had a quiet session.

Rookie outfit Haas F1 were again near the bottom of the timesheets, with Romain Grosjean leading teammate Esteban Gutiérrez in 16th and 17th, ahead of the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

The Manor Racing duo of Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto brought up the rear, finishing only quicker than the aforementioned Celis. Haryanto lost much of the session while his car’s underbody was replaced and only set a timed lap with five minutes of the session remaining.

Unsurprisingly for a track which sees little use over the year, a number of drivers struggled with a lack of grip over the session. There were many spinners, with Vettel, Button, Kvyat and Palmer all losing control through the final corners, while Hamilton had two separate spints at Turn 2.

Driver Team / Entry Result Laps
1. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:38.127 32
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid + 0.722 31
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 1.048 19
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 1.205 18
5. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 1.238 14
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 1.523 24
7. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 1.675 34
8. Daniil Kvyat ru Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 2.091 26
9. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 2.160 22
10. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 2.527 21
11. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 2.536 19
12. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 2.644 18
13. Sergey Sirotkin ru Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 2.771 24
14. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 2.958 21
15. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 3.007 22
16. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 3.111 18
17. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 3.258 20
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 3.544 25
19. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 3.835 22
20. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 4.356 21
21. Rio Haryanto id Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 4.560 8
22. Alfonso Celis Jr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 5.305 23

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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Ahmad Shallouf

Contributing Writer at MotorsportM8