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China GP: Free practice one Nico back on top

Prac One: Nico back on top in China | Planet F1 | Formula One News

Nico Rosberg picked up where he left off in China, claiming yet another P1, although this time a year later and on a Friday morning.

The defending Chinese Grand Prix winner posted a 1:36.717 to beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the opening practice session at the Shanghai circuit.

The feuding Red Bull drivers were next in line with Mark Webber quicker than Sebastian Vettel, which would pose an interesting conundrum should that be the case come Sunday's grand prix.

The session took a while to get going as the dusty surface dissuaded the teams from being the first to clean it. However, in the end someone had to do it and it was Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez. He posted a 1:43.097, which was easily pipped by McLaren's Jenson Button.

The duo traded blows for a few laps before Button begun to put some distance between himself and the Mexican rookie. The Brit lowered the benchmark to a 1:38.262 as Valtteri Bottas slotted into second place and Pastor Maldonado third.

Both McLaren and Williams are desperate for a massive improvement this weekend. McLaren are running updates this weekend including a less aggressive rear bodywork design that the team is hoping will stop the MP4-28 from eating its tyres.

Halfway through the session only 13 drivers had posted times while Force India's Adrian Sutil was leading the way on a 1:38.125. Button was second with Kimi Raikkonen third.

Raikkonen became the first spinner of the morning as the Finn lost the back end of his E21 after touching the astroturf at Turn 9. The Lotus driver kept the engine going and headed back to the pits.

On just his fifth lap of the morning, Felipe Massa let Rob Smedley know he has a bit of graining on his front Pirelli tyres after his engineer informed him that the recently pitted Raikkonen had some. Massa then went quickest with a 1:38.095.

Nico Rosberg was the next to lead the way and then Mark Webber while Lewis Hamilton, who was down in 17th place, had a serious lock up before running wide and off the track. The Brit improved to second place as Sebastian Vettel broke into the top four, kicking up dirt at the final corner as he attempted to close which was being controlled by Rosberg's 1:36.904.

The Mercedes driver lowered the benchmark to a 1:36.717 while Gutierrez joined the list of those succumbing to the dust as he ran wide and through the gravel before finding a piece of asphalt on which to plot his escape.

The final 20 minutes saw few changes to the timesheets as the drivers opted not to swap to the soft tyres while the mediums they had been running in the session were well past their prime.

As such Rosberg finished quickest of all with his 1:36.717, Hamilton was second, 0.454s down, while Webber was third, almost a full second behind the leading Mercedes driver.

Sergio Perez had a late moment as he went off in the gravel and hit the barriers nose first. Not a great way to end the session for the Mexican driver.

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.717 21 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.171 0.454 20 laps
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:37.658 0.941 21 laps
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.942 1.225 20 laps
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.965 1.248 17 laps
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.069 1.352 24 laps
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.095 1.378 14 laps
8 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:38.125 1.408 21 laps
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.398 1.681 17 laps
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1:38.561 1.844 15 laps
11 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:38.790 2.073 16 laps
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.057 2.340 19 laps
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:39.158 2.441 22 laps
14 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:39.180 2.463 21 laps
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:39.336 2.619 19 laps
16 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:39.360 2.643 20 laps
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:39.392 2.675 21 laps
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:40.032 3.315 22 laps
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:41.966 5.249 16 laps
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1:42.056 5.339 18 laps
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:42.083 5.366 21 laps
22 Ma Qing Hua Caterham 1:43.545 6.828 20 laps
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