British GP P1: Nico Rosberg pips Hamilton despite reliability trouble
Rosberg returns late in the session after gearbox change to deny Hamilton top spot at Silverstone; McLaren suffer more reliability and pace concerns as Toro Rosso's rookies impress again
By James Galloway at Silverstone
Last Updated: 08/07/15 11:44am
Nico Rosberg rebounded from an early Mercedes car breakdown to pip team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the fastest time in Practice One for the British Grand Prix.
Rosberg, the session’s initial pacesetter, pulled up onto the grass on his fifth lap of the morning with a hydraulics leak in his W06's gearbox. It initially appeared as though the German would be forced out of the remainder of the session, but Mercedes' engineers impressively managed to replace the unit inside an hour and got Rosberg back out on circuit for the final six minutes.
Hamilton, having had early dramas of his own with a spin at Stowe, had been dominating the timesheet in his team-mate's absence, but armed with new hard tyres and on a track offering up more grip, Rosberg twice went quickest in the closing minutes and ended up fastest by 0.070s with a best lap of 1:34.274.
“They did an awesome job because we did a major operation on the car with the gearbox coming out – it was a hydraulic leak,” Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “They managed to get him out at the end of the session doing a couple of laps and he went quite quickly. So a really awesome job.”
Shortly afterwards, however, it was announced that stewards are investigating Mercedes after they covered the car before returning it to the paddock - an act that potentially breaches FIA rules.
At a warm, although not sweltering, Silverstone, a number of teams – including Ferrari – appeared to limit their mileage during P1 and when out on track the Scuderia certainly didn’t show their usual practice pace as they trailed Mercedes by a massive 1.3 seconds
Instead, it was Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso who ran Mercedes closest, with rookie drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz impressing once again to go third and fifth respectively.
Kimi Raikkonen, under increasing pressure for his Ferrari seat in 2016, eventually split the two rookies in fourth with his team-mate Sebastian Vettel sixth.
But it was the immediate pace advantage of Mercedes around the fast sweeps of Silverstone which particularly caught the eye.
“They’ve got raw pace haven’t they? Both drivers are confident they’re expecting a very strong weekend; they think their car suits this track in every way,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.
“It suits every track, but they seem especially confident around the high-speed turns of Silverstone.”
The Northamptonshire venue used to be Red Bull’s domain, and while the former world champions’ cars fared better than recently in practice to go seventh and eighth with Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, they were still shaded by supposed understudies Toro Rosso. Force India debuted their 'B-spec' car and Nico Hulkenberg finished P1 in a solid ninth place.
Meanwhile, an F1 practice session is not currently complete without problems for McLaren-Honda, and so it continued in P1 here as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso spent the first half of the session marooned on just one lap apiece.
While McLaren stressed there was no problem with Alonso’s MP4-30, which has been fitted with a used engine this weekend after his latest power unit was damaged in his lap-one crash with Raikkonen in Austria, Button’s car sprung a leak on its installation lap which necessitated lengthy repairs.
But even when both cars did eventually take to the circuit they struggled for pace too, with Button and Alonso finishing ahead of only usual backmarkers Manor at the foot of the order.
Williams, meanwhile, gave test driver Susie Wolff her second P1 outing of the season with the Scot finishing 13th fastest, seven tenths of a second slower than team-mate Felipe Massa.
Another British driver appearing in P1, reigning GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer, wound up 14th, although two places ahead of his race driver stable-mate Pastor Maldonado.
Practice One timesheet:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:34.274
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.344
3. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:35.530
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:35.588
5. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:35.669
6. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:35.739
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:35.818
8. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:35.876
9. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.157
10. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:36.469
11. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:36.855
12. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:36.889
13. Susie Wolff, Williams, 1:37.242
14. Jolyon Palmer, Lotus, 1:37.262
15. Raffaele Marciello, Sauber, 1:37.372
16. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1:38.080
17. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:38.222
18. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:38.860
19. Will Stevens, Manor, 1:38.981
20. Roberto Merhi, Manor, 1:40.477