Japanese GP | Rosberg and Hamilton clear of Ferrari in FP1

Nico Rosberg on top in FP1 for the Japanese Grad Prix.

Suzuka speed sits with Rosberg, as the championship leader sets the early pace. Edging Hamilton for the top spot, while Ferrari and Red Bull linger a second off the pace. In a session where Alonso and Grosjean both found the barriers.

Throughout the opening session for the Japanese Grand Prix, the battle for the top spot remained an all Mercedes affair. With Rosberg out early to set the pace, and Hamilton chasing time a week on from his Malaysian fire.

Following the Pirelli tyre hand back, Ferrari was able to move ahead of the Silver Arrows. But Sebastian’s time in P1 was short lived as Rosberg crossed the line to smash his fellow German down the order.

Hamilton, on the other hand, returned to the track to set new personal bests of his own. But was only able to finish the session two-tenths down to his team-mate for second. The same margin he faced from his first run.

First runs for others saw Perez hold the opening benchmark. Starting the day with a 1:34.956 14 minutes into the session. Grosjean had broken the silence initially as the light went green.

With Perez atop the leaderboard, Fernando Alonso formed his nearest challenge at first. With the two-time F1 champion crossing the line 1.2 seconds down on the Mexican, while running the harder medium compound.

Alonso, however, was soon spinning off Honda’s track. With the Honda-powered driver losing the rear at Spoon before sliding into the barrier – damaging his rear wing before reversing back on track.

Romain Grosjean also found himself running off track and into a barrier. With the Frenchman suffering a heavy brake lock-up into Degner two, which saw his Haas carry on into the barrier. Like Alonso, Grosjean suffered front wing damage but was able to reverse back onto the track to return to his garage.

Romain Grosjean: “The brake doesn’t brake!”

While Romain’s lock up saw the Frenchman run through the gravel at Degner two, Sebastian Vettel had previously run wide on exit of the same corner. However, Vettel’s off only saw the Ferrari run over the astro turf placed aside the kerb.

At the end of the 90-minute FP1, Red Bull’s best-placed driver was Daniel Ricciardo in 5th place. Leading Verstappen by three-tenths of a second, with both drivers only running the hard and medium compound tyres while the drivers ahead lapped on the softs.

Verstappen’s session was not perfect, either. With Max suffering gearshift issues – something the team wished to discuss.

While Verstappen lapped out on track, the team enquired to how his gearshifts were. But only received “there really bad” as a reply. “Yeah, we were looking for a bit more detail than that…” came the reply.

Later into the session, Red Bull received a bit more detail as Verstappen claimed his “downshifts feel like a handbrake”.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 24 1’32.431
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1’32.646 0.215
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 19 1’33.525 1.094
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 17 1’33.817 1.386
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 23 1’34.112 1.681
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 26 1’34.379 1.948
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 28 1’34.530 2.099
8 Sergio Perez Force India 30 1’34.767 2.336
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren 10 1’35.003 2.572
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 31 1’35.381 2.95
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 23 1’35.446 3.015
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 27 1’35.672 3.241
13 Jenson Button McLaren 24 1’35.677 3.246
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 17 1’35.688 3.257
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber 15 1’35.967 3.536
16 Felipe Massa Williams 23 1’36.169 3.738
17 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 21 1’36.219 3.788
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 19 1’36.294 3.863
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 30 1’36.822 4.391
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 29 1’37.797 5.366
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 24 1’37.966 5.535
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 13 1’37.992 5.561