All three drivers logged big mileage, though not quite as many laps as either Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg or Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley who impressed as they placed fourth and fifth respectively, the latter enjoying a reliable start with Honda power.
At the other end of the scale was Fernando Alonso who completed just 10 laps as McLaren, looking to put past pre-season difficulties behind them, endured a disappointing start to their winter programme.
The session was less than an hour old when the Spaniard lost his right-rear wheel and was pitched into the gravel at the final corner, with a wheel nut issue later identified as the cause.
The morning’s other red-flag stoppage was caused by Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin, who was given the honour of debuting the team’s VJM11 after its earlier pit lane launch. Like Alonso, the Russian found the gravel trap, only this time his spin at Turn 4 looked like it owed more to driver error than car problem.
Elsewhere Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson got off to solid starts for Williams, Haas and Sauber respectively, with each logging a decent amount of laps, albeit some way off the ultimate pace.