Nico Rosberg fastest in opening practice at the Austrian GP

Austrian Grand Prix weekend opens with Nico Rosberg leading FP1.

A cool morning in Spielberg became the host to 20 drivers looking to set the early pace for the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix. But after 90 minutes of running for 18 of those drivers, it was Nico Rosberg topping the time sheet from Hamilton with Vettel in 20th place following an early retirement. 

When the session got underway, the track remained slightly damp following overnight rain but a majority of the surface had dried up despite the cool temperatures in the Austrian morning. Nevertheless, the green light flicked on and Kvyat lead the field out for their installation laps.

For Fernando Alonso, this was sadly all he could participate in during the opening stages after his Honda power unit cut out as he came towards the end of his lap. Somewhat thankfully for him at least was that the issue appeared to be a gearbox problem rather than engine related after the power unit in his car at the start of FP1 was his brand new fifth engine which already meant he would take a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday. Alonso was also meant to have been trialling new parts for the team but these plans were put on halt.

Shortly after Fernando coasted into the pits so the team could assess the issue, Nasr posted the first time of the day. However the Brazilians 1:18.021 was soon displaced before Rosberg went on to set the new benchmark time with a 1:10.401. That time was already eight tenths up on last years FP1 fastest lap.

While Rosberg was going faster than he managed last year in FP1, Sebastian Vettel joined Alonso on the sidelines. This time a car was finding its way off the track and onto the back of a low-loader lorry after Vettel reported he lost drive and smoke poured out of his brakes.

With only a 20% chance of rain in FP1 and a higher chance predicted for the afternoon session, teams aimed to get as much data as they could on the soft tyres but with the low temperatures grip was minimal. The low grip levels did not stop Hamilton from improving however, although three personal bests still were not enough to overturn Nico’s lead.

Maldonado and Verstappen meanwhile where showing why the low levels of grip were an issue at the final two corners. Similar to last year where drivers ran wide and even had their qualifying times eliminated during the session. Elsewhere on track, Button joined the duo in their troubles as he struggled to get heat into his tyres.

As the session approached the final 15 minutes, Rosberg and Hamilton remained in a one-two while Kvyat sat in third place despite a one second deficit. Another driver lapping the Red Bull Ring far off the pace of the Mercedes was Fernando Alonso after McLaren eventually found a fix that meant he could get some laps under his belt.

After a few laps, Fernando steadily improved his lap times to close in behind his team-mate for 17th place with only the Marussia’s and Vettel behind him, as the German was unable to return to action during the opening practice session. Raikkonen in the other Ferrari however was able to improve on his personal best to slot in behind the Silver Arrows with fellow Finn, Bottas, slotting in behind him.

Position Driver Gap Laps
1 Rosberg 1:10.401 36
2 Hamilton 0.308 28
3 Raikkonen 0.627 22
4 Bottas 1.051 26
5 Nasr 1.232 28
6 Kvyat 1.241 31
7 Ricciardo 1.323 29
8 Verstappen 1.424 38
9 Massa 1.489 29
10 Perez 1.504 37
11 Sainz 1.547 32
12 Maldonado 1.603 34
13 Hulkenberg 1.630 36
14 Palmer (replaced Grosjean) 1.649 27
15 Ericsson 1.758 30
16 Button 2.519 30
17 Alonso 2.871 10
18 Stevens 3.536 29
19 Merhi 5.058 11
20 Vettel 5.283 4