After losing the top step of the podium to Ferrari in Malaysia, Mercedes returned to the top of the pile in the first free practice session in China. Lewis Hamilton’s best time was half a second faster than his nearest challenger team-mate Nico Rosberg.
At the start of the session a number of cars instantly took to the track for installation laps, leaving Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and both Mercedes in the garage. The first time of the day came from Rosberg and it was a 1:41.052. He improved to a 1:39.574 by the end of the session. Following a brief lull in action after the first half an hour, when drivers have an additional set of tyres which they must return at this stage, Rosberg had a lock-up and ran wide. Other drivers had their own moments including Jenson Button in the McLaren, Hamilton, and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat.
Carlos Sainz complained of having no power on the straights but an earlier time was enough to see him fourth in the times with an hour of the session complete. He eventually finished in eighth place, two seconds down on the Mercedes pace. Up at the top it was last race’s winner Sebastian Vettel who got closest to the Mercedes, albeit six tenths off Rosberg’s time. Raikkonen ended up fourth, ahead of Felipe Nasr, Ricciardo, Kvyat, and the aforementioned Sainz. Valtteri Bottas was the lead Williams in ninth just a thousandth of a second ahead of Felipe Massa.
The session saw Jolyon Palmer get his first Friday running of the year for Lotus, taking over Romain Grosean’s car for the session. He finished a respectable 15th place just six tenths off Pastor Maldonado’s time in eleventh. Both drivers had ‘moments’ during the session as Palmer had a spin and Maldonado ran wide but both were able to continue. Max Verstappen was twelfth in the session ahead of Button, Marcus Ericsson, Palmer, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, and the Manor duo of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.
Times from the first practice session:
- Lewis Hamilton – 1:39.033 – 21 laps
- Nico Rosberg – 1:39.574 – 21 laps
- Sebastian Vettel – 1:40.157 – 18 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen – 1:40.661 – 27 laps
- Felipe Nasr – 1:41.012 – 18 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo – 1:41.029 – 21 laps
- Daniil Kvyat – 1:41.097 – 24 laps
- Carlos Sainz – 1:41.112 – 23 laps
- Valtteri Bottas – 1:41.303 – 23 laps
- Felipe Massa – 1:41.304 – 17 laps
- Pastor Maldonado – 1:41.335 – 23 laps
- Max Verstappen – 1:41.575 – 28 laps
- Jenson Button – 1:41.845 – 19 laps
- Marcus Ericsson – 1:41.918 – 24 laps
- Jolyon Palmer – 1:41.967 – 25 laps
- Sergio Perez – 1:42.141 – 22 laps
- Fernando Alonso – 1:42.161 – 20 laps
- Nico Hulkenberg – 1:42.184 – 19 laps
- Will Stevens – 1:45.379 – 18 laps
- Roberto Merhi – 1:46.443 – 20 laps