Shanghai Practice 1: Rosberg heads Hamilton as Mercedes shine

Nico Rosberg fastest at the end of FP1

Nico Rosberg fastest at the end of FP1

Nico Rosberg won his first ever grand prix in China last year, and has started the weekend in Shanghai with his intent quite clear as he topped the timing sheets at the end of first free practice with new teammate Lewis Hamilton second best in the Mercedes which clearly strong at the venue.

Rosberg, who has led the race in Shanghai in the past three editions and whose 2012 win at the monumental circuit was the first of his Formula One career, clocked a quickest lap of one minute 36.717 seconds.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion who cancelled his media engagements on Thursday because he felt unwell, was 0.454 slower.

Sebastian Vettel during the opening session in China

Sebastian Vettel during the opening session in China

The Briton, third in Malaysia last month after Rosberg was ordered not to overtake because of concerns the cars might run out of fuel, is the only driver to have won twice in China.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber, whose working relationship with world champion Sebastian Vettel hit a new low after a team orders storm in Malaysia, ended the session third and ahead of the German.

Vettel was fourth, 1.225 off Rosberg’s pace, while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso lapped fifth fastest and McLaren’s Jenson Button was sixth.

Triple champion Vettel leads the championship after two races with 40 points, nine clear of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Session ended in the gravel for Sergio Perez

Session ended in the gravel for Sergio Perez

China’s Ma Qing Hua, in the Caterham that will be raced by Frenchman Charles Pic on Sunday, wrote a foootnote in Formula One history by becoming the first Chinese driver to take part in a grand prix weekend on Chinese soil.

He was last of the 22 drivers on track, 6.828 seconds slower than Rosberg, with both Caterhams lagging rivals Marussia at the tail end.

Button’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez damaged the front wing of his McLaren when he skidded off into the gravel at the pitlane entry at the end of the session.

Free Practice 1 Results, Shanghai – Friday, 12 April 2013

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.717 21
2 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.171 0.454 20
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.658 0.941 21
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.942 1.225 20
5 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.965 1.248 17
6 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.069 1.352 24
7 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.095 1.378 14
8 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:38.125 1.408 21
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:38.398 1.681 17
10 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:38.561 1.844 15
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:38.790 2.073 16
12 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:39.057 2.340 19
13 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:39.158 2.441 22
14 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.180 2.463 21
15 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:39.336 2.619 19
16 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.360 2.643 20
17 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:39.392 2.675 21
18 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.032 3.315 22
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:41.966 5.249 16
20 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:42.056 5.339 18
21 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:42.083 5.366 21
22 20 Qing Hua Ma Caterham-Renault 1:43.545 6.828 20