Rosberg fastest in first practice at Silverstone; Massa crashes (VIDEO)

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Nico Rosberg has picked up in Silverstone where he left off in Austria by finishing the first practice session for the British Grand Prix as the fastest driver.

The world championship leader posted a fastest lap of 1:35.424 this morning, finishing some seven-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in a session disrupted by incidents.

Susie Wolff made history by becoming the first female driver to take part in a grand prix weekend session in 22 years, but her practice lasted just 20 minutes after an engine-related failure on the Williams car. Teammate Felipe Massa saw his session come to an end just a few minutes later when he crashed on the exit of Stowe.

The crash was severe enough to warrant a red flag, and although Massa walked away unharmed, Williams has a big job on its hands to get the car ready for FP2 this afternoon. All the while, the other drivers tried to keep to their normal plan despite the red flag costing them 15 minutes of track time.

Caterham also had a tough session as reserve driver Robin Frijns encountered a problem on his car, whilst Marcus Ericsson spun out at Stowe. Pastor Maldonado didn’t even post a time after his Lotus stopped at the end of the pit lane.

At the front, it was business as usual for Mercedes as Rosberg and Hamilton secured yet another one-two finish. Fernando Alonso finished a respectable third for Ferrari, whilst Daniel Ricciardo showed signs of improvement at Red Bull in fourth place.

You can see if Mercedes’ good form continues in FP2 later today, with the session being broadcast on NBCSN and Live Extra from 9am ET.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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