In tricky conditions, with extreme track and air temperatures, the Ferrari and the Red Bull continued to look the most comfortable in the early stages.
The Ferrari’s made use of the fastest soft tyre to relegate the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton to third, after the Brit used the medium compound, but was only three tenths off the pace.
After suffering with the soaring track temperatures and cooling issues in Austria, early signs were that the Mercedes seem to be coping much better in similar conditions at Germany but were still behind the Ferrari’s.
Late session spins
After a relatively quiet session, the final minutes burst into life. Valtteri Bottas, who had several edgy moments throughout the session, was lucky to escape any damage after making a mistake at Turn 13 and skidded into the gravel trap narrowly avoiding any damage.
Seconds after Bottas’ spin, Daniel Ricciardo mounted the outer Kerb at Turn 1, but was also able to get the car facing the right way before the session drew to a close.
Both Mercedes drivers had several hairy moments, with Hamilton carrying too much speed on the entry to the final corner, but the Brit escaped with slightly dirty tyres.
Haas’s struggles looked set to continue this weekend as midway through the first practice session, Kevin Magnussen’s car ground to a halt as he reported an apparent loss of power, causing the session to be red-flagged.
New upgrades impress
The Racing Point’s were running an upgraded package in the first session, and with Sergio Perez in eleventh and Lance Stroll in ninth, they looked like they may have a more competitive car in the midfield battle this weekend.
Even further back in the field, Kubica's Williams was running the latest spec package and was half a second ahead of his teammate George Russell.
First Practice results
1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:14.013
2. Charles Leclerc – 1:14.268
3. Lewis Hamilton – 1:14.315
4. Max Verstappen – 1:14.330
5. Valtteri Bottas – 1:14.660
6. Pierre Gasly – 1:14.813
7. Carlos Sainz – 1:15.062
8. Romain Grosjean – 1:15.074
9. Lance Stroll – 1:15.191
10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:15.567
11. Sergio Perez – 1:15.604
12. Lando Norris – 1:15.616
13. Kevin Magnussen – 1:15.759
14. Daniil Kvyat – 1:15.776
15. Alex Albon – 1:15.777
16. Nico Hulkenburg – 1:15.823
17. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:15.953
18. Antonio Giovinazzi – 1:16.382
19. Robert Kubica – 1:16.559
20. George Russell – 1:17.126