Nico Rosberg beats Lewis Hamilton in Spain practice

Nico Rosberg
Rosberg comes into the grand prix 27 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings
By Andrew Benson Chief F1 writer at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Spanish Grand Prix
Venue:Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaDates:8-10 May
Full BBC coverage details

Nico Rosberg pipped Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to set the pace in Spanish Grand Prix first practice.

The German headed Hamilton by just 0.07 seconds as the two silver cars were a second clear of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton 'blown away' by season start

Hamilton appeared to have a faster lap in him, but after setting two quicker sector times he backed off following a slide in the final chicane.

Susie Wolff was 14th on her first outing of the season for Williams.

The Scot was six places and 0.8secs behind team-mate and race driver Felipe Massa.

Wolff was the slowest of the three stand-in drivers running during the session, with Sauber's Rafaelle Marciello 12th and Lotus's Jolyon Palmer 13th.

Marciello was two places behind Sauber race driver Felipe Nasr in 10th, while Palmer headed Pastor Maldonado, who was down in 18th after doing just one run.

Williams Susie Wolff finishes in 14th
Williams reserve driver Susie Wolff took part in her first practice race of 2015, finishing 14th

Ferrari came to Spain hoping to close the gap to Mercedes and have a major upgrade on their car, with many of the aerodynamic surfaces reshaped to create more downforce.

However, Mercedes appear so far to have retained their advantage in overall downforce judging from the margin between the two cars.

Rosberg was 0.978secs quicker than Vettel, who headed Raikkonen by just 0.028secs.

Barcelona is a severe test of the overall aerodynamic performance of an F1 car because of its series of long-duration corners of varying speeds, which reward consistent downforce.

So when a car has an advantage here it tends to be a reflection of its aerodynamic qualities, assuming the engines are of relatively similar performance, as is the case this year with the Mercedes and Ferrari.

Behind the big two, Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen were fifth and sixth.

That put them ahead of senior team Red Bull, for whom Daniil Kvyat was seventh fastest as the team tried out a new shorter nose design on the car.

Alonso's trip down F1 memory lane

The Russian did only one run, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo did not get out until the final 10 minutes of the session because of engine reliability problems but still managed ninth fastest.

The McLaren-Hondas of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were only 15th and 16th.

The team had been expecting a step forward in performance as a result of a series of upgrades on car and engine but it was not reflected in the times in the first session.

One of the developments was a new front wing, and Button was heard complaining on the radio that the "balance was completely wrong".

There was only 0.004secs between the two drivers, with Alonso just ahead. The Spaniard ended the session with a dramatic spin on the exit of Turn 11 into Turn 12.

Andrew Benson's view of the Spanish GP
The Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has taken the place that used to be held by the much-loved San Marino race at Imola - a comfortable and familiar-feeling start to the European part of the Formula 1 season. The track is nestled in the Valles region north of Barcelona, an incongruous mix of verdant hills and heavy industry, and it lacks the atmosphere and buzz of Imola.But it is lent a charm of its own by the warm Spanish sunshine, drifting, filigree spring seeds, hazy Pyrenean backdrop and proximity of one of the world's great cities. The track tends not to produce brilliant racing - overtaking is exceptionally difficult because of the plethora of corners.But those bends - all long-duration, mostly medium-speed and some exceptionally fast, particularly the challenging Turn Three - provide one of the sternest all-round tests for a grand prix car's capabilities on the calendar.

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