0.033. That is all the difference was between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the opening practice session for Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The dueling teammates, on their final "final warning"- (Toto Wolff) were in a class of one, or two, in the session, finishing the opening 90 minutes, 0.805 clear of the third place man, Nico Hulkenberg.
Running on mixture of the Medium and Hard tyres, the field ran in overcast conditions, although the threat of rain was minimal. Sebastian Vettel, running the latest incarnation of the Halo, finished the session in fourth, 0.847 down on Hamilton's ultimate 1:31.654. Behind him, Daniel Ricciardo, the recently re-employed Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and McLaren's Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10 in a relatively quiet and uneventful first practice.
There were two driver changes for the opening session, with Friday drivers, Esteban Ocon replacing Kevin Magnussen at Renault and Monagasque driver Charles LeClerc doing Esteban Gutierrez a similar favour at Haas. Ferrari young driver LeClerc is the first driver from Monaco to take part in a race weekend session since Olivier Berreta in 1994.
The story of opening practice
Early on, the Red Bull's of Ricciardo and Verstappen traded some times in the mid 1:35's before Rosberg came in and set a time nearly 2s clear, Hamilton quickly responded to that with quicker time, relieving Rosberg of his P1 slot. Then followed a period of the duo trading times, eventually getting down to the 1:31.654 and 1:31.687 set. In the opening stages, the cars were faster then they were in the same session twelve months ago.
Turn three, Village, proved to be difficult for a handful of drivers, as a lack of grip didn't help them. LeClerc was the only driver to make a real mistake, uneventfully spinning, although there were numerous lock-ups into the tight right hander.
Ferrari, testing the Halo, were seen to be a threat by Hamilton in the Thursday press conference, although they were for the most part of the session, some 2s off the ultimate pace, although too much shouldn't be read into the gap, due to the different set-up programmes being run. Second practice, this afternoon at 14:00pm, and the race simulations will give a better insight into how close the field is - or what Mercedes's advantage is.
Just when they didn't need it, Sauber had a troubled session, The team, sitting out the post-race test, are running the new Ferrari power unit for the first time this weekend, but it appeared there were numerous problems with it, as Felipe Nasr only set a handful of laps, and Marcus Ericsson only managing a 15 minute spell at the end of the session.
There was late drama as Vettel appeared to suffer a gearbox failure, but it isn't a major problem as the race-gearbox will be fitted this evening in time for third practice and qualifying tomorrow.
British Grand Prix - First Practice times
1. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 1:31.654
2. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 1:31.687
3. Nico Hulkenberg - Force India - 1:32.492
4. Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari - 1:32.501
5. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull - 1:32.773
6. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari - 1:33.039
7. Max Verstappen - Red Bull - 1:33.202
8. Sergio Perez - Force India - 1:33.235
9. Carlos Sainz - Toro Rosso - 1:33.446
10. Fernando Alonso - McLaren - 1:33.527
11. Danill Kvyat - Toro Rosso - 1:33.738
12. Jenson Button - McLaren - 1:34.132
13. Valtteri Bottas - Williams - 1:34.263
14. Felipe Massa - Williams - 1:34.456
15. Romain Grosjean - Haas - 1:34.547
16. Jolyon Palmer - Renault - 1:34.787
17. Felipe Nasr - Sauber - 1:34.805
18. Charles LeClerc - Haas - 1:35.869
19. Esteban Ocon - Renault - 1:35.890
20. Marcus Ericsson - Sauber - 1:36.003
21. Pascal Wehrlein - Manor - 1;36.136
22. Rio Haryanto - Manor - 1:36.647