Rosberg fastest at Red Bull Ring as Mercedes and Ferrari trial titanium skid plates.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg went quickest in the opening practice session at the Red Bull Ring as Formula One returned to Austria for the first time since 2003. The championship leader finished just over a tenth ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Fernando Alonso third for Ferrari.
One the short, fast 4.3km circuit just a second covered the top 10 but it was it was still the Mercedes pairing that set the pace with Rosberg and Hamilton on top for the bulk of the session. Indeed, Mercedes-powered machinery dominated, with Felipe Massa fourth for Williams, four tenths of a second down on Rosberg’s time, and Jenson Button fifth for McLaren. Sergio Perez was sixth for Force India, ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen in ninth.
Tenth place went to Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, apart from Alonso the only non-Mercedes-powered member of the top 10.
Conditions for the opening practice session were mixed, with cool temperatures and a light sprinkling of rain contributing to a complicated acclimatisation process for the drivers.
The conditions and a surface low on grip led to several spins, the most notable being for Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel who was lucky to avoid major trouble when he spun on the exit of the final corner. The defending champion bounced through the grass, completed two complete spins but managed to regain control and steer his RB10 back to the pits.
Red Bull Racing had an anonymous first showing at the team’s home track, with Daniel Ricciardo 13th and Vettel 15th.
Elsewhere, 11th-fastest Kimi Raikkonen trialled another of the sport’s attempts to improve the spectacle by running a titanium plate on the bottom of his car in order to create sparks at the back of the car. Rosberg also ran with a similar plate during the session.