Rosberg quickest in Suzuka as Verstappen makes debut

By | October 3, 2014

German edges Mercedes team-mate Hamilton as Dutch teenager becomes youngest ever F1 driver at 17 years of age.

Suzuka, 2 Oct 2014: Nico Rosberg went quickest in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, the 15th round of the 19-round Formula One World Championship, but while the Mercedes driver narrowly outpaced championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second all eyes were on 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who was making his grand prix weekend with Toro Rosso.

When the Dutchman drove out of the Italian squad’s garage became Formula One’s youngest ever driver, at 17 years of age, more two years younger than previous record-holder Sebastian Vettel, who made his debut at the 2006 German Grand Prix.

The son of former Benetton and Arrows driver Jos  had an early problem with third gear that required him to return to the garage but once back on track he rose to 12th place in the standings, two behind future team-mate Daniil Kvyat and just over four tenths behind the Russian.

However, with six minutes left on the clock in 90-minute session his session ended abruptly as an engine failure cut his running short and he was forced to pull over at the side of the track.

Toro Rosso release adds: Max Verstappen (STR-01)

First Practice Session – Best lap: 1:38.157, pos. 12th, 22 laps
Verstappen said: “Today for me it was all about getting experience in the car, especially on a difficult track like Suzuka. I was impressed with the engine power. The car is bigger compared to the one I’m used to in Formula 3 and there are a lot more things to think about while you’re driving, so I had to use some laps to get confident with such a different car. I was not taking any risks and I drove within my limits for all the session, doing as much mileage as possible. I have to thank Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso for giving me the possibility to be in the car already this year on Fridays and get well prepared for next year. I find myself very comfortable in this team and I like my working group. I hope to drive also in Austin, Sao Paolo and Abu Dhabi. Now that I know what it means to drive a Formula 1 car, I’m looking forward to it even more.”

Meanwhile, at the top of the timesheet, with Rosberg shading Mercedes team-mate Hamilton for P1, best of the rest status went to Fernando Alonso, who finished half a second down on Rosberg’s best time of 1:35.461, according to an FIA release.

In recent races Williams have made a low-key start to weekends but today Valtteri Bottas set the morning’s fourth-fastest time, though a second down on Rosberg’s lap. Team-mate Felipe Massa finished the opening session in 11th place.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest for Ferrari, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen in sixth place. Behind them came Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo with Jenson Button, who had issues with a loose seat, in eighth place. The top 10 was rounded out by four-time Japanese Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel in ninth, with Kvyat tenth.

2014 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.461 27
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.612 0.151 26
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.037 0.576 19
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.576 1.115 25
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:37.187 1.726 19
6 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:37.327 1.866 24
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:37.466 2.005 27
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.649 2.188 24
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:37.686 2.225 26
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:37.714 2.253 26
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.012 2.551 22
12 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.157 2.696 22
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.324 2.863 10
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.582 3.121 9
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.851 3.390 21
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:39.046 3.585 19
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:39.097 3.636 26
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.318 3.857 18
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham

Verstappen debut as the youngest ever to drive  in F1. A Toro Rosso image

Verstappen debut as the youngest ever to drive in F1. A Toro Rosso image

1:40.031 4.570 18
20 Roberto Merhi Caterham 1:41.472 6.011 24
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:41.580 6.119 10
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:41.757 6.296 15

eom/FIA release with Verstappen quotes from Toro Rosso release