Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were comfortably quickest in FP1 at Sochi, a session in which Red Bull’s aeroscreen made its on-track debut.
On a chilly morning at the Sochi Autodrom all eyes were on Daniel Ricciardo as he put in an installation lap with Red Bull’s aeroscreen attached to his RB12. He covered just a single lap after which the device was removed and it was business as usual.
Mercedes opted for an early run with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton immediately down into the 1:40s. The latter briefly brought out the yellow flags as he had a spin at Turn 2 on the dusty track.
Rosberg continued lapping, lowering the benchmark to a 1:39.424 only to pipped by Hamilton. The German came back with a 1:39.097 to hold down P1 halfway through the 90-minute session.
Swapping to the super-softs with 30 minutes remaining, Rosberg upped his pace to a 1:38.642 and followed that up with a 1:38.127. Hamilton could only respond with a 1:38.849, which was seven-tenths down.
Behind them Valtteri Bottas and Ricciardo battled for third place. The duo leapfrogged one another several times as they tried to close the gap to Mercedes only for Ferrari to get the jump on them.
Sebastian Vettel put in a late run on the softs to slide up into third place, 1.048s off Rosberg’s P1 time. He was joined up front by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who was fourth quickest despite missing the early part of practice with a suspected DRS problem.
Both Ferrari drivers set their best times on the soft tyres whereas Mercedes used the super-softs.
Felipe Massa was another who lost out on some track time as a clutch problem meant he was stuck in the pits. He covered his first flying lap with 30 minutes to go and slowly worked his way up to fifth place on the timesheets.
Ricciardo completed the session in sixth place ahead Bottas, Russia’s Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.
There was a second Russian driver in action in FP1 as Sergey Sirotkin replaced Kevin Magnussen at Renault for the session.
The GP2 racer posted a 1:40.898, which put him seven-tenths up on regular race driver Jolyon Palmer, who ended his session with a spin.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.127 32 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:38.849 +0.722 31 laps
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.175 +1.048 19 laps
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:39.332 +1.205 18 laps
5 Felipe Massa Williams 1:39.365 +1.238 14 laps
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:39.650 +1.523 24 laps
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:39.802 +1.675 34 laps
8 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:40.218 +2.091 26 laps
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:40.287 +2.160 22 laps
10 Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso 1:40.654 +2.527 21 laps
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:40.663 +2.536 19 laps
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:40.771 +2.644 18 laps
13 Sergey Sirotkin Renault F1 Team 1:40.898 +2.771 24 laps
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:41.085 +2.958 21 laps
15 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:41.134 +3.007 22 laps
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team 1:41.238 +3.111 18 laps
17 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 1:41.385 +3.258 20 laps
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault F1 Team 1:41.671 +3.544 25 laps
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:41.962 +3.835 22 laps
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Racing 1:42.483 +4.356 21 laps
21 Rio Haryanto Manor Racing 1:42.687 +4.560 8 laps
22 Alfonso Celis Force India 1:43.432 +5.305 23 laps