Japan: Nico Rosberg bounced back from his Singapore disappointment by setting the fastest time in opening practice for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Rosberg, whose failure to finish the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago cost him the championship lead, lapped the 5.8-km long Suzuka circuit in one minute, 35.461 seconds.
He led Mercedes team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton in a one-two for the world championship leaders, with the Briton’s time just 0.151 seconds slower than the German’s.
Mercedes have an opportunity to clinch the constructors’ championship at Suzuka with a one-two finish and if closest rivals Red Bull fail to score three points.
There are four races remaining after the stop in Japan.
Fernando Alonso appeared to confirm the progress Ferrari made in Singapore by setting the third fastest time, albeit half a second adrift of Rosberg’s leading Mercedes.Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was fourth with Alonso’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fifth.
Kevin Magnussen was sixth in his McLaren ahead of the lead Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and team-mate Jenson Button.
World champion Sebastian Vettel was ninth while Daniil Kvyat was 10th in the Toro Rosso.
Max Verstappen, driving the second Toro Rosso, became the youngest driver to participate in a grand prix weekend just days after his 17th birthday.
The Dutchman, set to replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Red Bull’s sister team next season, acquitted himself well around the challenging sweeps of the Suzuka circuit with the 12th fastest time, only four-tenths of a second slower than team-mate Kvyat.
He completed a total of 22 laps before engine trouble brought a fiery end to his run with just under seven minutes of the 90 minute session remaining.