Nico Rosberg quickest in Spa FP1

Championship leader sets pace ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third.

Following its traditional summer break Formula One action resumed today at Spa-Francorchamps, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg setting the early weekend pace in the first practice session ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

The championship leader ended the opening session with a best lap of 1:51.577, outpacing team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.097s.

Mercedes-powered cars dominated proceedings, with just the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo figuring in a top 10 otherwise solely populated by cars using Mercedes power units.

Alonso finished the session in third place, just two tenths down on Rosberg’s table–topping time. He was followed by the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button, with Spa specialist Räikkönen, a four-time Belgian Grand Prix winner, slotting into fourth place.

Sergio Pérez posted a useful fifth-fastest time for Force India, while Kevin Magnussen was sixth, though the Dane was over half a second down on McLaren team-mate Button.

Nico Hulkenberg was eighth fastest in the sister Force India car ahead of Ricciardo. The Australian’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel had a troubled session. The German reported gearbox problems, ran wide at Pouhon and then was forced to retire from the session with exhaust failure. The team later reported that he would miss FP2 as a result of the issues.

Valtteri Bottas was the only Williams driver to finish inside the top 10, seven tenths quicker than team-­mate Felipe Massa.

Further back, Alexander Rossi drove the session for Marussia, at the end of a confusing 24 hours for the team. Yesterday, the team reported that the American racer would drive for the whole weekend in place of regular racer Max Chilton due to “contractual issues” with the British driver, a decision confirmed by the race stewards.

On Friday morning, however, the team, again with the permission of race stewards, reversed its decision and reinstated Chilton to his race seat, with Rossi confined to an FP1 outing. The US driver finished the session in 20th place, 5.6s down on Rosberg.

Behind him, making his first grand prix weekend appearance was three-time Le Mans winner and 2012 World Endurance champion Andre Lotterer.

The German, who races for Audi Sport Team Joest in the WEC, is racing this weekend for Caterham, replacing regular driver Kamui Kobayashi. He finished the session in 21st place ahead of team-mate Marcus Ericsson.

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m51.577s 25 laps2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m51.674s +0.097s 24 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.805s +0.228s 16 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m52.404s +0.827s 21 5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m52.818s +1.241s 17 6. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m52.903s +1.326s 24 7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m52.922s +1.345s 23 8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m52.937s +1.360s 22 9. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m52.972s +1.395s 19 10 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m53.172s +1.595s 20 11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m53.369s +1.792s 11 12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m53.594s +2.017s 21 13 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m53.597s +2.020s 20 14 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1m53.703s +2.126s 14 15 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m53.968s +2.391s 20 16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m54.189s +2.612s 20 17 Giedo van der Garde Sauber-Ferrari 1m54.335s +2.758s 16 18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1m55.336s +3.759s 21 19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1m55.782s +4.205s 19 20 Alexander Rossi Marussia-Ferrari 1m57.232s +5.655s 20 21 Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 1m57.886s +6.309s 24 22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m57.977s +6.400s 24

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