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Austrian GP: Rosberg leads first practice from Hamilton

Nico Rosberg led the way in first free practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, as Formula 1 returned to the renamed Red Bull Ring for the first time in 10 years.

With rain expected to interrupt the later part of the session, both Mercedes drivers made use of the extra set of soft tyres made available to all drivers in FP1 to pump in some early quick laps.

Rosberg set the early pace as Mercedes trialled a titanium skid plate on the floor of the championship leader's car, successfully producing sparks as the German navigated the undulations of the circuit.

An unspecified 'power unit issue' cut short the German's initial running and meant he slipped as low as 13th in the times as other drivers improved, but he returned to the track to set what stood as the fastest time of the session with around 40 minutes to run.

Rosberg's 1m11.295s best put him just over a tenth clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who pushed his Mercedes up to second in between the spells of rain that affected the final 30 minutes of running.

Hamilton had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with his team-mate in the early part of the session, as Rosberg slowed with his engine issue.

Hamilton worked down to a 1m12.255s over an initial 10-lap run, which stood as the benchmark for a long while, until first McLaren's Jenson Button and then Rosberg broke into the 1m11s.

Fernando Alonso looked set to send Ferrari to the top of the times during the opening half-hour, but ran wide after a moment at the penultimate turn and spoiled the lap.

The Spaniard eventually went third fastest, ahead of Felipe Massa's Williams and Button, these three the only other drivers to break through the 1m12s barrier.

The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg headed the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the McLaren of Kevin Magnussen, as all eight Mercedes-engined cars occupied the top nine spots on the timesheet.

Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest Renault-powered runner, rounding out the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

The Frenchman improved in the final five minutes to displace Kimi Raikkonen (also trialling a titanium skid plate on his Ferrari) by just one thousandth of a second.

World champion Sebastian Vettel endured a difficult session on Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz's home circuit, lapping a lowly 15th fastest and narrowly missing the barriers after a wild 720-degree spin across the grass exiting the final turn.

Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo also survived a wild trip across the grass at the same corner as he battled his way to the 13th fastest time, just behind Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat and ahead of Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, who lapped 0.004s faster than Vettel.

Lotus continued to struggle for speed with Romain Grosjean only 16th and failing to escape the 1m13s, while team-mate Pastor Maldonado was 17th quickest, just ahead of both Marussias.

Pos Driver                Team                   Time       Gap     Laps
 1. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1m11.295s           19
 2. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes               1m11.435s  +0.140s  32
 3. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1m11.606s  +0.311s  23
 4. Felipe Massa          Williams-Mercedes      1m11.756s  +0.461s  27
 5. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1m11.839s  +0.544s  33
 6. Sergio Perez          Force India-Mercedes   1m12.009s  +0.714s  33
 7. Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1m12.072s  +0.777s  20
 8. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Mercedes      1m12.114s  +0.819s  21
 9. Kevin Magnussen       McLaren-Mercedes       1m12.313s  +1.018s  36
10. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Renault     1m12.364s  +1.069s  30
11. Kimi Raikkonen        Ferrari                1m12.365s  +1.070s  21
12. Daniil Kvyat          Toro Rosso-Renault     1m12.372s  +1.077s  35
13. Daniel Ricciardo      Red Bull-Renault       1m12.570s  +1.275s  28
14. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari         1m12.984s  +1.689s  19
15. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1m12.988s  +1.693s  25
16. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1m13.168s  +1.873s  28
17. Pastor Maldonado      Lotus-Renault          1m13.642s  +2.347s  27
18. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Ferrari       1m13.738s  +2.443s  26
19. Max Chilton           Marussia-Ferrari       1m13.857s  +2.562s  28
20. Kamui Kobayashi       Caterham-Renault       1m14.611s  +3.316s  24
21. Adrian Sutil          Sauber-Ferrari         1m14.691s  +3.396s  9
22. Marcus Ericsson       Caterham-Renault       1m17.501s  +6.206s  8
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