Nico Rosberg sets commanding pace in first Russian GP practice

Nico Rosberg continued his imperious Formula 1 form by topping the opening free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg sets commanding pace in first Russian GP practice

The Mercedes driver outpaced team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.722 seconds, a surprisingly large advantage given both ran similar programmes using the same Pirelli tyre compounds.

The session also featured the track debut of Red Bull's aeroscreen cockpit protection concept, which Daniel Ricciardo used for an early installation lap.

During the first 40 minutes of the session, when drivers use one set of tyres that cannot subsequently be run, Hamilton initially set the pace.

While the track was quiet early on, both Mercedes reeled off eight-lap runs on one of their four sets of soft tyres and traded top spot.

Hamilton looked to have prevailed despite losing the rear at Turn 2 and spinning onto the run-off area on his sixth lap, but given the low rates of tyre wear and degradation at the Sochi circuit the battle continued into their second runs.

That allowed Rosberg to hit back, setting a 1m39.097s on his 12th lap to secure top spot -just over two-tenths faster than Hamilton, who could not match that improvement.

Both Mercedes drivers bolted on super-softs for their second runs, with Hamilton unable to get near Rosberg, the latter only briefly having trouble when he ran across the run-off area at Turn 2.

The German set his best time on his 22nd lap of the session and Hamilton had no answer for his pace having only been able to improve on his soft-compound time by 0.458s.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel prevailed in a tight battle for third ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Williams driver Felipe Massa.

Both Ferrari drivers opted to run medium and then soft tyres during the session, compared to the Mercedes strategy of soft then super-soft - meaning the duo were the only drivers on that rubber in the top nine.

Initially, Ricciardo held the position before Vettel jumped ahead of him.

Raikkonen and then Massa, who did not post a time until there was just over 20 minutes remaining thanks to a clutch problem, then had stints in third before Vettel, who had suffered a brief spin at Turn 15 earlier in the session, set a best time 1.048s off Rosberg to secure the position.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh fastest behind Ricciardo in the second Williams having been the closest challenger to the Mercedes drivers in the first 40 minutes.

He was able only to find an improvement of less than a tenth of a second on his second set of super-softs, with both Williams drivers opting to use that compound in both parts of the session.

Daniil Kvyat was eighth in the second Red Bull, although he would have improved on his 1m40.218s time had he not spun at the penultimate corner while on a better lap.

Force India driver Sergio Perez, also running super-softs, was ninth with Carlos Sainz Jr 10th and the best non-Ferrari driver using softs.

Jenson Button was the quicker of the McLaren-Honda drivers, setting 11th fastest time on softs after recovering from a spin during the first 40 minutes of running. He ended up just over a tenth faster than Fernando Alonso.

Newly-appointed Renault development driver Sergey Sirotkin was 13th fastest on his second appearance in an F1 practice session, the first having come at the same venue for Sauber in 2014.

He drove Kevin Magnussen's car, with Alfonso Celis Jr the other non-race driver to appear and ending up slowest after Rio Haryanto was finally able to set a time with four minutes remaining to relegate him to bottom spot.

It was a challenging session for the Manor team, as Haryanto only joined in late on thanks to a technical problem, while Pascal Wehrlein's car needed a rapid floor change after picking up damage earlier on.

PRACTICE ONE TIMES

Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.127s - 32
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.849s 0.722s 31
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m39.175s 1.048s 19
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m39.332s 1.205s 18
5 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m39.365s 1.238s 14
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m39.650s 1.523s 24
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m39.802s 1.675s 34
8 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/Renault 1m40.218s 2.091s 26
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m40.287s 2.160s 22
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m40.654s 2.527s 21
11 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m40.663s 2.536s 19
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m40.771s 2.644s 18
13 Sergey Sirotkin Renault 1m40.898s 2.771s 24
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m41.085s 2.958s 21
15 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m41.134s 3.007s 22
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m41.238s 3.111s 18
17 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m41.385s 3.258s 20
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m41.671s 3.544s 25
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m41.962s 3.835s 22
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m42.483s 4.356s 21
21 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1m42.687s 4.560s 8
22 Alfonso Celis Force India/Mercedes 1m43.432s 5.305s 23


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