Austrian GP: Nico Rosberg sets pace, Sebastian Vettel has problems

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg topped the opening free practice session for Formula 1's Austrian Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari stopped early and was last

Austrian GP: Nico Rosberg sets pace, Sebastian Vettel has problems

The 29-year-old took the initiative early in the session, when the field was running on its first set of soft-compound Pirelli that must be discarded after 30 minutes, setting a best time of 1m10.401s to put himself 1.1 seconds ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

While the fastest times overall are usually set in the final hour of the 90-minute session when drivers use their second set of tyres, pacesetter Rosberg did not improve.

But his time was good enough to stay fastest, because while Hamilton closed to 0.308s off Rosberg, a wide moment in the final corner and a big lock-up at Turn 1 prevented him from challenging his team-mate.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, who had been third on first-run times, did not return to the track until late in the session and was able to retake his position as best-of-the-rest behind the two Mercedes drivers.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest four Williams at the head of of a gaggle of cars, with just four tenths of a second covering positions fourth through to 10th.

Felipe Nasr was fifth fastest, capitalising on some clear track as both Sauber drivers headed out on their second sets of rubber earlier than most.

That put him ahead of Red Bull pairing Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, with Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen eighth fastest despite a lairy moment in the final corner earlier in his run that led him to describe the car over the radio as "unbelievably hard to drive".

Felipe Massa was ninth fastest after a brief scare shortly before the 30-minute mark when he was released from the Williams pit box just as Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene crossed from the pitwall.

Arrivabene jumped out of the way, while Massa stopped short of where the Ferrari boass had been, with the pair later sharing a joke about the moment.

Sergio Perez, who briefly ran as high as fourth on his second set of tyres, rounded out the top 10 ahead of Carlos Sainz, Pastor Maldonado and Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.

Jolyon Palmer was the only non-race driver to participate, after taking over Romain Grosjean's Lotus.

He was less than half-a-tenth off Maldonado in 14th place and ahead of Ericsson.

Jenson Button was 16th fastest, while McLaren-Honda team-mate Fernando Alonso was one place behind after losing much of the session.

The Spaniard was ordered to shut down his engine at the end of his installation lap as he returned to the pits, staying in the garage until the closing stages when he completed a further nine laps and at least posted a serious laptime.

That was more than fellow world champion Vettel managed for Ferrari, as the German ground to a halt on his fifth lap with what is believed to be a gearbox problem.

Although his car was returned to the pits, he was unable to return to the track and ended up behind Manor drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi after being unable to set a serious laptime.

PRACTICE TIMES:

Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m10.401s - 36
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m10.709s 0.308s 28
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m11.028s 0.627s 22
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m11.452s 1.051s 26
5 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m11.633s 1.232s 28
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/Renault 1m11.642s 1.241s 31
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m11.724s 1.323s 29
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault 1m11.825s 1.424s 38
9 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m11.890s 1.489s 29
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m11.905s 1.504s 37
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso/Renault 1m11.948s 1.547s 32
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Mercedes 1m12.004s 1.603s 34
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m12.031s 1.630s 36
14 Jolyon Palmer Lotus/Mercedes 1m12.050s 1.649s 27
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m12.159s 1.758s 30
16 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m12.920s 2.519s 30
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m13.272s 2.871s 10
18 Will Stevens Marussia/Ferrari 1m13.937s 3.536s 29
19 Roberto Merhi Marussia/Ferrari 1m15.459s 5.058s 11
20 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m15.684s 5.283s 4


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Austrian GP: Sebastian Vettel fastest for Ferrari before problems

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