Rosberg tops opening Austrian GP practice for Mercedes

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Nico Rosberg sent out an early warning shot to his rivals in Austria by topping the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring on Friday morning for Mercedes.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:07.373 to beat Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second at the checkered flag.

The session saw drivers get to grips with the newly-resurfaced Red Bull Ring, which is also sporting a number of new kerbs and a revised pit entry for the weekend.

Despite locking up and running wide on a handful of occasions, Rosberg’s best time was enough to defeat Hamilton, the Briton unable to respond during the 90-minute session.

Hamilton suffered a spin at Turn 3 that led to a brief Virtual Safety Car period, with Romain Grosjean also going off-track as he arrived at the scene.

The only other stoppage came when Max Verstappen suffered a suspension failure, having also lost part of his front wing after running over the new kerbs earlier in the session.

Sebastian Vettel finished as the best of the rest for Ferrari, ending the session six-tenths of a second off Rosberg at the top of the timesheets. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen followed two-tenths further back in P4.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull, while teammate Verstappen still ended the session eighth in spite of his damage. Newly-re-signed Carlos Sainz Jr. charged to sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa, while their respective teammates – Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas – rounded out the top 10 behind Verstappen.