Rosberg quickest in Suzuka FP1 as Verstappen makes debut

German edges Mercedes team-mate Hamilton as Dutch teenager becomes youngest ever F1 driver at 17 years of age.

Nico Rosberg went quickest in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, but while the Mercedes driver narrowly outpaced championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second all eyes were on 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who was making his grand prix weekend with Toro Rosso.

When the Dutchman drove out of the Italian squad’s garage became Formula One’s youngest ever driver, at 17 years of age, more two years younger than previous record-holder Sebastian Vettel, who made his debut at the 2006 German Grand Prix.

The son of former Benetton and Arrows driver Jos had an early problem with third gear that required him to return to the garage but once back on track he rose to 11th place in the standings, two behind future team-mate Daniil Kvyat and just over four tenths behind the Russian.

However, with six minutes left on the clock in 90-minute session his session ended abruptly as an engine failure cut his running short and he was forced to pull over at the side of the track.

At the top of the timesheet, with Rosberg shading Mercedes team-mate Hamilton for P1, best of the rest status went to Fernando Alonso, who finished half a second down on Rosberg’s best time of 1:35.461.

In recent races Williams have made a low-key start to weekends but today Valtteri Bottas set the morning’s fourth-fastest time, though a second down on Rosberg’s lap. Team-mate Felipe Massa finished the opening session in 12th place.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest for Ferrari, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen in sixth place. Behind them came Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo with Jenson Button, who had issues with a loose seat, in eighth place. The top 10 was rounded out by four-time Japanese Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel in ninth, with Kvyat tenth.

2014 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.461 272 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.612 0.151 263 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.037 0.576 194 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.576 1.115 255 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:37.187 1.726 196 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:37.327 1.866 247 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:37.466 2.005 278 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.649 2.188 249 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:37.686 2.225 2610 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:37.714 2.253 2611 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.012 2.551 2212 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.157 2.696 2213 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.324 2.863 1014 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.582 3.121 915 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.851 3.390 2116 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:39.046 3.585 1917 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:39.097 3.636 2618 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.318 3.857 1819 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:40.031 4.570 1820 Roberto Merhi Caterham 1:41.472 6.011 2421 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:41.580 6.119 1022 Max Chilton Marussia 1:41.757 6.296 15

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