SHANGHAI, China -- Lewis Hamilton's bid to become a six-time winner in China got off to a promising start on Friday with the Mercedes driver dominating opening practice on a cool and overcast morning in Shanghai.
Hamilton wasted little time in putting his name at the top of the timesheets, with the Brit going quickest in each sector en route to a time of 1:34.962 before strapping on the soft tyre and lowering his mark to a scintillating 1:33.999, 0.359s ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn's time coming late in the session on the faster ultrasoft tyre.
Valtteri Bottas was third quickest, 0.099s behind Raikkonen but like his teammate he had opted to run the soft tyre for his best lap, the only two drivers of the top seven to do so.
Red Bull finished the session fourth and fifth with Daniel Ricciardo edging Max Verstappen by 0.131s, albeit 0.538s off Hamilton's benchmark time. Verstappen was slightly hampered on his flying lap after locking up and spinning on the final corner of his out lap and suffering a significant flat spot on his ultrasoft tyres.
Despite the gap to Mercedes, Red Bull will be pleased with their impressive pace on the medium tyre in the first phase of the session where they were comfortably the quickest on this weekend's most durable compound.
Sebastian Vettel was unable to unlock the same pace as his teammate and was forced to settle for P6 ahead of Kevin Magnussen who continued his excellent start to the season by once again outshining teammate Romain Grosjean.
Haas and Renault look as though they could be locked in a battle this weekend for 'best of the rest' with the quartet locking out positions seven through to 10 in opening practice as Toro Rosso look to have taken a step backwards from last weekend's high in Bahrain with Pierre Gasly only 11th quickest.
Fernando Alonso was 12th fastest for McLaren on the ultrasoft tyre, over two seconds off the lead time of the session but just ahead of the Force Indias whose early season struggles look to have carried through to China. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished 13th and 14th fastest but the pair only ran the medium tyre in the session, so significant improvement is expected in this afternoon's session.
Once again Sergey Sirotkin was the quicker Williams edging Brendon Hartley for P15. The Saubers, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll rounded out the finishers.
Plenty of drivers struggled to find grip in the early stages of the session with Raikkonen, Hamilton, Alonso and Vandoorne all spinning or running wide at various points of the circuit.
The cool conditions experienced on Friday morning are likely to carry through to FP2 which gets underway at 14:00 local time.