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Nico Rosberg has topped first free practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, albeit one that would be see relatively limited track action after two red flags periods caused by identical tyre problems on Felipe Massa's Williams.

An eventful session all-round for the drivers as they got to grips with the Shanghai International Circuit, Rosberg's best lap of 1min 38.037secs would come in the closing stages on Mercedes' first soft tyre run, putting him just over a tenth up on Lewis Hamilton, though the German would end the session complaining of a potential problems on his W07, while his title rival suffered two spins himself.

However, it was the problems down at Williams that would cause knock-on issues for the session after he suffered an unusual left-rear tyre failure early on after the rubber appeared to come away from the rim, which in turn caused him to spin at turn six.

The Brazilian returned to the track later in the session, only for the same failure to occur as he entered the back straight, before seconds later Kevin Magnussen suffered his on left-rear blow-out.

Raising concern of a brewing Pirelli tyre problem, swift investigations suggested Massa's two tyre failures are as a result of Williams' own technical issues and not a fundamental tyre problem. Renault is still investigating Magnussen's blow-out, but it is believed debris from Massa or elsewhere could have been at fault.

Regardless, both incidents would prompt a red flag to clear debris, the second stoppage in particular taking more than 20mins as marshals inspected the track closely.

With the session restarting with eight minutes remaining, Rosberg pumped in the fastest time as the teams put in soft tyre runs, only to report issues with the car after it went into 'limp mode' signifying an issue with the engine for the team to investigate. Hamilton too would suffer his own problems, complaining off oversteer and spinning twice at turn 11.

Regardless, Mercedes was still comfortably clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the German six tenths adrift, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Rakikkonen Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Jenson Button was an encouraging eighth for McLaren, with Nico Hulkenberg and Max Verstappen completing the top ten.

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso returned to action in the McLaren-Honda, the Spaniard noticeably cautious climbing in and out of the car following his rib injuries as he went 12th fastest. He will need to pass a final medical assessment after FP1 to be given the go-ahead to race this weekend.

With Magnussen and Massa failing to set times, Esteban Gutierrez was another pinned to the bottom of the timesheets as electrical problems consigned his Haas car to the garage throughout.



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