Nico Rosberg spent a lot of the first free practice session in Austria cocooned in his garage, but it didn’t stop him beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the fastest time in Formula One’s first foray at Spielberg in eleven years.
The German set the pace from the off, but an early electronics problem thwarted his running and promised to cause significant problems for the Mercedes man. However, his mechanics soon had the issue under control with a simple reset of the system and he enjoyed further track time until more mechanical gremlins struck with around twenty minutes of the ninety minute session to go, when a cooling pump required attention. However, his 0.1 second gap over Hamilton was maintained after the Englishman failed to extract more from his F1W05 in tricky, greasy conditions caused by a brief drizzle of rain.
Behind the Mercedes men it was a closely-contested timesheet with Ferrari, Force India and McLaren all vying for position with Mercedes; but experience seemed to count for something despite the long break from racing here and it was veterans Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button who filled out positions from 3rd through to 5th, with Perez and Hulkenberg backing them up in the Force India cars. Kimi Raikkonen had run as high as 2nd early on but slipped to 11th behind Jean Eric Vergne at the chequered flag, while Red Bull struggled for pace at their home circuit.
The Renault-engined cars just couldn’t match their Mercedes and Ferrari-powered rivals, and both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo survived close shaves with the outside wall of the final corner after turn eight reminded everyone of its ability to punish the over-zealous. Vettel in particular avoided serious damage to his car when he made two full 360 degree spins in front of the main grandstand.
Further back there were issues for Adrian Sutil and Marcus Ericsson that saw them sit out much of the morning running, while Marussia continued to pull ahead of Caterham and homed in on the back of the Lotus duo of Grosjean and Maldonado.
FP2 is at 13:00 GMT
CLASSIFICATION – FP1 – Austrian Grand Prix -20th June 2014