Rosberg Leads FP1 as Sauber Improve and Ocon Wows

Nico Rosberg led the Free Practice One session with a lap of 1.48.348, seven tenths ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Based on what happened in each session  at Germany, it is clear that this gap doesn’t mean much.

Rosberg’s fast lap was completed using the halo safety system, which clearly wasn’t impairing Nico’s vision too much. Spa specialist Kimi Raikkonen was a promising 3rd in his Ferrari and was less than a tenth off of Hamilton.

It’s doubtful that Hamilton was going at full pace in this session given the arduous task of climbing the grid given his 15-place grid penalty. His side of the garage probably opted to focus on set-up and obtaining as much data as possible.

Sergio Perez showed great pace with 4th in the Force India. The Silverstone-based squad have always done well at the high-speed Spa. Their 2nd place in 2009 with Giancarlo Fisichella was a memorable race and quite the statement for scoring their first championship points. Podiums seem easier to come by these days at Force India and Perez looks as sharp as ever. Vettel managed 5th, both Ferrari’s ahead of the Red Bulls of Ricciardo in 6th and Verstappen in 7th.

Elsewhere, Sauber looked more competitive in this session than they have for a long time. Ericsson managed 13th with Nasr in 15th and it will be interesting to see the race stints completed in FP2. McLaren desperately need to find more pace. Button finished the session in 18th, 4-seconds slower than Rosberg’s fastest. Alonso didn’t even get a run, a water leak issue on his car frustrating the Spaniard. It has been assured that the issue was in no way engine related.

Eyebrows were raised by the pace of debutante Esteban Ocon in the Manor. He finished the session in 16th, a whole second faster than the highly-rated Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein. The Mercedes team will be watching the fight between the Manor pair closely and Ocon has already made a big statement here.