Championship leader Nico Rosberg has finished ahead of fellow Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second to top the opening practice session for the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The German registered a best time of 1:32.431 on the soft tyre to clear Sebastian Vettel’s benchmark by a whopping 1.094 seconds, while Kimi Räikkönen was a further three-tenths behind in the other Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo was next in the order finishing three-tenths quicker than Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen in fifth, who reported issues with his gearbox saying that everytime he downshifted it was “like a handbrake”.

Both RB12 cars were over a second and a half slower than the Silver Arrows, however, neither driver ran the soft compound tyre in the session, opting to run 11 laps each on the Hards before moving on to the Mediums for the remainder of the session.

The two Force Indias again finished inside the top ten, as Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez – who tested the Halo device for a handful of timed laps – ended the session in seventh and eighth position respectively, having set their best time on the soft tyre.

The pair finished ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who, despite spinning and crashing into the barriers at Spoon corner and damaging his rear wing, was still able to place ninth ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.

Haas still struggled to get on top of the persistent mechanical issues, as Romain Grosjean experienced yet another brake failure with less than 30 minutes left in the session.

The Frenchman reported that his “brake doesn’t brake” as his Haas careered off into the gravel at the Degner curve.

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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Josh Kruse

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