Lewis Hamilton drew first blood in China, as Mercedes dominated the first practice session.
The Briton took his time to set his first proper flying lap of the session, having sat near the bottom of the timing screen for the first half of the session after an early attempt at a flyer was ruined when he ran wide at Turn 1.
He then re-emerged from the pits with 44 minutes of the 90-minute session remaining, and immediately posted a 1m39.033s – 0.541s quicker than what team-mate Nico Rosberg had posted to that point, and three quarters of a second quicker than Fernando Alonso’s benchmark time from FP1 in China last season.
Hamilton failed to improve on that time, running wide twice more as the session wound down (once at Turn 6, and a second off at Turn 1), but thanks to Rosberg also not improving in the session half of the second the 0.541s gap stood until the end.
Ferrari best of the rest
The Ferraris were next in line, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen squabbling over positions three and four throughout the session. Vettel ultimately won out, moving into third with 23 minutes to run with a 1m40.554s lap, before improving at the chequered flag to a 1m40.157s.
Still, despite the late improvement, the Malaysian GP winner was a whopping 1.124s down on Hamilton.
Raikkonen failed to improve in the last half hour of the session, finishing 1.628s down on the reigning World Champion.
Felipe Nasr made it three Ferrari-powered cars in the top five by going fifth quickest in the Sauber. The rookie continued his impressive debut season by setting a best of 1m41.012s exactly 15 minutes from time to dump Daniel Ricciardo from the top five.
Red Bull and Williams a long way back
Ricciardo may have only finished a few tenths down on Nasr, but his gap to even the Ferraris was significant. After complaining of mid-corner understeer on the radio, Ricciardo finished the session 1.996s down on Hamilton, and 0.368s down on Raikkonen.
He did, however, out-pace team-mate Daniil Kvyat and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr, who ran as high as third in the early part of the session, despite complaining about being down on power.
Williams couldn’t do any better than ninth and 10th, with Bottas beating Felipe Massa by 0.001s.
Manor runs two cars – at the same time
Manor did its bit to dispel rumours from Sepang that the team can’t run both cars at the same time by finally getting Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi on track together 25 minutes into the session. The pair wound up 19th and 20th, with Stevens just inside the 107 per cent, and Merhi just outside of it.
Joylon Palmer was in action for Lotus and finished the session 15th, 0.632s down on Pastor Maldonado in the sister car, while the McLaren-Hondas finished 13th (Jenson Button) and 17th (Fernando Alonso).
|06||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:41.029||+1.996||21|
|07||D. Kvyat||Red Bull||1:41.097||+2.064||24|
|08||C. Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:41.112||+2.079||23|
|12||M. Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:41.575||+2.542||28|
|16||S. Pérez||Force India||1:42.141||+3.108||22|
|18||N. Hülkenberg||Force India||1:42.184||+3.1551||19|