Rosberg quickest in first practice for Russian GP in Sochi

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Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has finished fastest in the first free practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

As the F1 paddock continues to send its prayers and support to Marussia’s Jules Bianchi following his accident at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the on-track action got back underway this morning in Russia as the drivers took to the Sochi Autodrom circuit for the first time.

In a mark of respect to Bianchi, Marussia has confirmed that it will run with just one car in Sochi this weekend, with Max Chilton being the team’s only representative in FP1.

The new circuit posed a challenge to a number of drivers as they enjoyed their first real running in Sochi, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both having off-track moments in the first session.

Nico Rosberg complained that he did not feel totally comfortable with the setup on his Mercedes car during the session, but rallied to finish fastest with a lap of 1:42.311, less than one-tenth of a second faster than teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

Despite his spin, Button managed to produce a good result in third place, with Alonso in fourth ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen.

On home soil, Daniil Kvyat made an impressive start to the weekend, finishing seventh for Toro Rosso behind Sergio Perez. The Russian youngster was followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten for Williams, but his session came to an early end when his tire blanket malfunctioned and burned a hole through his tire.

Down the order, Sergey Sirotkin’s first practice session for Sauber saw him finish 18th, some 1.5 seconds slower than teammate Adrian Sutil, while Roberto Merhi finished down in 19th place for Caterham.

This weekend’s race marks the first ever Russian Grand Prix to be part of the F1 world championship, and the early signs coming out of Sochi are encouraging. The challenge of working with a new circuit is one that all of the drivers will be hoping to live up to, but once again it appears that Rosberg and Hamilton will be the men fighting for the race win on Sunday.

You can join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6am ET today.