Rosberg leads Hamilton in Sochi FP1

Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the first practice session at the all-new Sochi Autodrom as the inaugural Russian Grand Prix got underway.

The Mercedes driver lapped the new circuit in a session-best time of 1:42.311, to eclipse team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.065 seconds.

Third place went to McLaren’s Jenson Button, who was just two tenths of second down on Rosberg, while Fernando Alonso was fourth for Ferrari with a time of 1:42.720. Kevin Magnussen was fifth in the second McLaren car.

Drivers spent the opening session familiarising themselves with the 5.848km circuit and in the early part of the session it was Turn Two that caught out many, with a number of drivers running off as they attempted to define the best line through the turn in order to be correctly set up for the long Turn Three left-hander that follows. Button also spun at Turn 8, though he was able to continue.

Behind Magnussen, Sergio Pérez was sixth for Force India, while Daniil Kvyat gave the local fans something to cheer about when he finished the opening session of his home grand prix in seventh place.

Kimi Raikkonen was eighth in the second Ferrari and the top 10 order was rounded out by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne in P9, with Valtteri Bottas 10th for Williams.

Prior to the start of the session Marussia revealed that it would a single car at Sochi, as a mark of respect to Jules Bianchi who was severely injured in a crash at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. The team’s sole driver here, Max Chilton, finished the first practice in 21st position.

A team statement said: “We will run a single car for the duration of the forthcoming Grand Prix weekend in Sochi, out of respect for our driver Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital in Yokkaichi, Japan, in a critical but stable condition.

“We have written to the Stewards of the Meeting to inform them that we have withdrawn our second car. The Team feels strongly that fielding a single car, that of driver number 4, Max Chilton, is the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend."

Elsewhere, Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin made his grand prix weekend debut for Sauber, the Muscovite taking over regular driver Esteban Gutierrez’s car for the session. Sirotkin, who is currently fifth in the drivers’ standings in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, finished his first F1 practice session in 17th place.

In another FP1 replacement, Roberto Merhi drove Kamui Kobayashi's Caterham. The Spaniard, who is currently second in the Formula Renault 3.5 standings, finished 19th in FP1 in Sochi, with a time of 1:46.782.

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m42.311s 2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m42.376s 3 Jenson Button McLaren/Mercedes 1m42.507s 4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m42.720s 275 Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Mercedes 1m43.026s6 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m43.129s7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1m43.164s 8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m43.212s9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso/Renault 1m43.327s 10 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m43.542s11 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m43.741s 12 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m43.821s13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m43.976s14 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/Renault 1m44.506s15 Adrian Sutil Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.625s 16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 1m44.876s17 Sergey Sirotkin Sauber/Ferrari 1m45.032s 18 Romain Grosjean Lotus/Renault 1m45.190s 19 Roberto Merhi Caterham/Renault 1m46.782s20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham/Renault 1m46.922s 21 Max Chilton Marussia/Ferrari 1m47.284s  *

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*Marussia is running one car in this weekend's 2014 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix out of respect for Jules Bianchi..The team said in a statement that they felt strongly that fielding a single car was "the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend."