Mercedes duo lead the way

Nico Rosberg finished out in front at the end of first practice for the Belgian GP

Nico Rosberg finished out in front at the end of first practice for the Belgian GP

First published in National Sport News © by

It was business as usual upon Formula One's return from its summer break with Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton out in front at the end of the first practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

On a power circuit such as Spa-Francorchamps, Mercedes' only potential challenge is likely to come from Williams, although Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa found themselves considerably off the pace.

For Rosberg and Hamilton, with just 11 points splitting the duo ahead of the final eight races of the campaign, come the end of 90 minutes in sunny, but cool conditions - with temperatures hitting 15 degrees centigrade - they were separated by only 0.097secs.

Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen fared well, with the pair third and fifth on the timesheet, but with the Spaniard a quarter of a second back and the Finn a further full second adrift.

McLaren's Jenson Button split the Ferraris, with the 34-year-old just over six tenths of a second off of Rosberg's pace, with team-mate Kevin Magnussen in seventh, 1.645secs down.

Force India's Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg also appear well placed as the duo were sixth and eighth quickest, 1.326secs and 1.360secs in arrears respectively.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, the only driver to win a race other than Rosberg and Hamilton this season, was 1.395secs behind Rosberg.

Bottas then completed the top 10, but a staggering 1.595secs down, albeit with the suggestion there is so much more to come from his car, similarly with Massa who was down in 15th and 2.391secs back.

Sauber reserve Giedo van der Garde, replacing Esteban Gutierrez, was 17th, six tenths of a second and two places down on team-mate Adrian Sutil.

Alexander Rossi was 20th for Marussia, the American on Thursday seemingly poised to make his race debut this weekend due to Max Chilton being axed for "contractual issues".

However, on Friday morning as practice unfolded, the team confirmed Chilton would be back in the car from FP2 and for the remainder of the weekend following a remarkable U-turn.

At the bottom of the timesheet were Caterham pair Andre Lotterer and Marcus Ericsson.

Three-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner Lotterer, making his debut at the age of 32 and 12 years after his only previous F1 experience with Jaguar as a reserve, has replaced Kamui Kobayashi, apparently for this race only.

Lotterer finished 6.309secs behind Rosberg, and as a feather in his cap in his maiden outing, 0.091secs quicker then Ericcson.

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