Chinese Grand Prix | Two red flags and three tyre failures as Rosberg topped FP1

Nico Rosberg opens the Chinese Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time in first free practice, but three tyre failures is the story of the session.

Shanghai’s turns one and 13 can put increased pressure on the left hand Pirelli’s, which today suffered three separate failures. Firstly, Felipe Massa brought out an early red flag as his rear-left pinged off after 25-minutes, before coming detached from the rim once more after Williams looked into their issue. 

The Chinese Grand Prix weekend’s opening practice session began like any other with cars heading out for their installation laps. Fernando Alonso was also back in the McLaren for his first session after his Australian Grand Prix crash. Yet few laps were all he could muster with red flags interrupting the running.

Before the first red flag fell however, Hamilton – who has changed his gearbox after damage sustained in Bahrain – moved into the 1:38’s to lead the timesheet. The reigning champ who has struggled so far in races this year edged his team-mate by just two-tenths.

By the end of the session however, a change to soft tyres saw Rosberg change the order and edge Lewis by one tenth and take the chequered flag in P1. Behind them sat a five tenth gap to Vettel, with the Ferrari showing as Mercedes’ closest challenger.

Yet while Rosberg took the top spot, Pirelli came under fire after three tyre failures. Including two for the same driver.

Felipe Massa had appeared to drive over a piece of debris at the first corner before his tyre soon pinged off the wheel rim. The loss of tyre sent the Williams into a spin over the gravel trap and left debris and gravel across the track calling for the first red flag.

The team investigated the issue to see what the possible cause could have been but were unsure what it was at the stage so decided to send Felipe back out. However at the same corner of the Shanghai circuit, Massa suffered another failure.

Renault’s Kevin Magnussen also suffered a tyre failure with his rear-left. But unlike the Brazilian’s, K-Mag’s occurred along the long back straight with suspension damage deemed to either be the cause of the issue or a result of the tyre failure.

A Pirelli statement said that the tyre issues on Massa’s car did not appear to indicate a normal puncture.

“Investigation on both failures on Williams during FP1 show no signs of puncture,” it said. “Air loss [was] connected to technical trouble.

“Investigation on Renault ongoing.”

Pos Driver Time
1 Rosberg 1:38.037
2 Hamilton 1:38.183
3 Vettel 1:38.665
4 Ricciardo 1:39.061
5 Raikkonen 1:39.155
6 Kvyat 1:39.625
7 Sainz 1:39.676
8 Button 1:39.974
9 Hulkenberg 1:40.169
10 Verstappen 1:40.232
11 Perez 1:40.347
12 Alonso 1:40.538
13 Bottas 1:40.828
14 Grosjean 1:41.358
15 Ericsson 1:41.393
16 Haryanto 1:41.614
17 Palmer 1:41.816
18 Wehrlein 1:42.908
19 Nasr 1:42.980
20 Magnussen  No time set
21 Gutierrez  No time set
22 Massa  No time set