It wasn’t so much the fact that Mercedes delivered the crushing performance expected of them so much as the fact that Nico Rosberg’s best lap of 1m 29.557s was set right at the start of the session on a track that got better and better with every lap.
It took reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton a while to get the other F1 W06 Hybrid handling as well, but he then posted 1m 29.586s to go only 0.029s slower. It was a measure of their dominance that Mercedes did some race work towards the end of the 90-minute session, and still ended up 1.191s faster than their closest rival, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn took his FW37 around in 1m 30.748s, while fourth and sixth fell to Toro Rosso’s impressive rookie duo. Against the expectations of some, it was Carlos Sainz Junior who edged out younger team mate Max Verstappen, but neither could be faulted for laps of 1m 31.014s and 1m 31.067s respectively. Both did fine jobs.
Towards the end of the session Sebastian Vettel recovered from a momentary slide onto the dirt to snatch fifth for Ferrari with 1m 31.029s, as Felipe Massa clocked 1m 31.188s for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who took the second SF15-T around in 1m 31.310s.
As Romain Grosjean’s Lotus was beset by problems, Pastor Maldonado gave the team a boost with the ninth fastest time of 1m 31.451s to head the troubled Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat on 1m 31.570s and 1m 32.073s respectively. The Australian was the only man to spin, at Turn 15, and neither he nor his Russian team mate seemed pleased with the driveability of Renault’s power unit.
Sergio Perez was 12th for Force India on 1m 32.247s as team mate Nico Hulkenberg did 1m 32.267s for 13th, whilst the McLarens were a lowly 14th and 15th, five seconds off Mercedes’ pace, with Jenson Button on 1m 34.542s and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 34.785s. Their session finished early because of small mechanical issues, Button having completed just seven laps, Magnussen two.
Besides Grosjean, neither Sauber ventured out as the team’s legal problems dragged on off the track, and neither of the Marussias was ready for Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi to participate.
All of those who did run used Pirelli’s medium tyres.
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