Nico Rosberg led the way for Mercedes in an interrupted first practice for the Chinese Grand Prix after three separate left-rear tire failures occurred during Friday morning’s session.
Rosberg and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton surged to another one-two finish in FP1, but the biggest talking point at the end of practice were the three tire failures that sparked two red flag periods.
Felipe Massa suffered a failure on his left-rear less than 20 minutes into the session, with the tire coming loose from the rim and leaving debris strewn across the track, prompting a red flag.
Massa was able to return to the pits and get back out after Williams had fixed his car, only to suffer a puncture on his left-rear once again on his outlap.
Minutes later, Kevin Magnussen suffered a sizeable failure on his left rear tire, breaking the rear suspension on his Renault and once again causing the session to be red flagged.
Questions were immediately asked of Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli, but McLaren reported that it believed Massa’s issues to be caused by bodywork rubbing the car while Magnussen’s was the result of debris on track.
A lengthy delay followed as the track was swept and cleared of debris before the session resumed with eight minutes remaining, prompting a flurry of quick lap times.
Hamilton had sat quickest for much of the session, but a fast lap from Rosberg with four minutes remaining saw him rise to P1 at the checkered flag.
Hamilton was forced to settle for P2 in the second Mercedes, 0.146 seconds behind, while Sebastian Vettel followed in third place for Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of teammate Daniil Kvyat in P6, the pair split by Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz Jr. led Toro Rosso’s charge in seven ahead of Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg, while teammate Max Verstappen rounded out the top 10.
Second practice in China is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2am ET on Friday.