SHANGHAI, China 12th April – Nico Rosberg led a Mercedes one-two in first practice for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, clocking a blistering lap that was nearly half a second quicker than his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg, whose only grand prix victory came at the same Shanghai circuit a year ago, set the benchmark with a lap of 1min 36.717sec. Hamilton, who was sent home ill on Thursday, was 0.454 secs off the pace-setting German.
The Red Bull pair of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel came home third and fourth quickest. Vettel, the reigning world champion, who infuriated his team-mate by snatching victory in Malaysia, was 1.225 secs off Rosberg.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was fifth-fastest in the dry but hazy conditions. Sandwiched between him and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa was the McLaren of another former world champion, the Briton Jenson Button.
Adrian Sutil of Force India, the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Paul di Resta, also of Force India, rounded out the top 10.
The Finn Kimi Raikkonen — winner of the season-opening race in Melbourne — was only 11th fastest in his Lotus, more than two seconds slower than Rosberg.
Qualifying is on Saturday and the race — the third of the new season — is on Sunday.