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F1 Russian GP: Rosberg tops slippery FP1 as Aeroscreen makes bow

Nico Rosberg sets the pace in first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix, as Red Bull gives its 'Aeroscreen' a brief track debut.
CLICK HERE for the full Russian Grand Prix FP1 times

Formula 1 World Championship leader Nico Rosberg has picked up from where he left off in China during first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix by going comfortably quickest at the Sochi Autodrom, while Red Bull offered a brief glimpse of its striking 'Aeroscreen' device.

The Mercedes driver, winner of the opening three rounds, prevailed in a 'slick' session by producing a rapid super-soft lap that would put him a full seven tenths up on team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Indeed, with fairly chilly and windy conditions greeting the drivers around a circuit little used the rest of the year, several would endure spins and off-track excursions as they found the limit of the low-grip surface, including Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel – twice -, Jenson Button and home favourite Daniil Kvyat.

Despite the margin to Rosberg, Hamilton maintained a solid three tenths advantage over Vettel and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Ferrari pair debuting a revised engine and front-wing this weekend in their efforts to close the gap on Mercedes.

Despite suffering with clutch issues on his Williams, Felipe Massa was still fifth fastest, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, his Red Bull team having attracted all the attention in the opening minutes after giving its much discussed 'Aeroscreen' its first track outing. The cockpit protection device was fitted to Ricciardo's RB12, completing just one relatively slow installation lap before it was removed again [Click for full story].

Valtteri Bottas followed up in seventh place in the second of the Williams', ahead of Kvyat, top Force India driver Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz.

Elsewhere, GP2 race winner and new Renault development driver Sergey Sirotkin made his FP1 bow for the manufacturer around his home circuit, impressing to set the 13th best time, a full eight tenths faster than regular driver Jolyon Palmer, who suffered a spin towards the end of the session.

Using a newly built Sauber chassis this weekend, Felipe Nasr was an encouraging 14th quickest, nine tenths faster than team-mate Marcus Ericsson, while Esteban Gutierrez got the better of Haas counterpart Romain Grosjean in 16th and 17th.

A problematic start to the day for Manor saw both Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto spend time in the pit lane, though they would still get the better of Force India third driver Alfonso Celis Jr, the Mexican slowest of all by eight tenths.
by Ollie Barstow

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