Lewis Hamilton set the pace at the beginning of the session with a 1’38.395. Team mate Nico Rosberg, who had a problem with a flat battery on one of his early runs, came within a tenth of a second of his team mate.
Ferrari briefly took over the fastest time when Fernando Alonso went out with 15 minutes to go, setting a 1’37.953.
But the silver cars returned to the track once more shortly afterwards to reclaim the top spots as first Rosberg, then Hamilton lowered the best lap time, leaving it at 1’37.502.
Alonso had a minor drama early in the session when his Ferrari was sent from his garage with three medium tyres and a single soft, on the front-left. He came to a stop in the pit lane and was pushed back to his box to have the incorrect tyre replaced.
Two more Mercedes-powered cars followed Alonso in the final classification: Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India ahead of Jenson Button’s McLaren. Button and team mate Magnussen reported braking problems early in the session.
Kimi Raikkonen was next for Ferrari despite running very wide at turn one – which has been renamed after Michael Schumacher – when he locked up on one lap.
Behind Magnussen was Daniil Kvyat, who enjoyed a more productive session in his Toro Rosso than his team mate. Jean-Eric Vergne repeatedly complained about problems with inconsistent power delivery from his Renault V6 turbo.
Sergio Perez was ninth for Force India and Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten for Red Bull, who on this first indication seem to be further off the pace at this track than Sepang.
Giedo van der Garde made his return to an F1 cockpit, driving for Sauber in place of Esteban Gutirrez. Felipe Nasr and Robin Frijns made their first appearances in an official F1 practice session, the latter outpacing team mate Marcus Ericsson by three tenths of a second.
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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei