GOOD START: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was the quickest driver on track during first practice for the German Grand Prix. Image: AP / Jens Meyer
Hockenheim - An in-form Nico Rosberg dominated Friday's opening free practice for this weekend's German Grand Prix, clocking the fastest lap ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Just five days after losing the leadership of this year's drivers' world championship for the first time, the 31-year-old German responded with a flawless demonstration of smooth lapping on home soil at Hockenheim.
Rosberg clocked a fastest lap of 1min15.517 seconds to outpace defending three-time champion Hamilton by 0.326 seconds, the Briton never looking likely to match his team mate's speed.
It was the seventh successive Friday morning session in 2016 to be dominated by the two Mercedes men with a one-two on top of the time-sheets in front of fans and staff from the manufacturer's factories.
Four-time champion and fellow-German Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Ferrari, 1.150 seconds off the pace, ahead of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The two Red Bull drivers, teenager Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, in his 100th GP, were fifth and sixth ahead of the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and 2009 champion Jenson Button.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was ninth for Toro Rosso ahead of his team mate Carlo Sainz.
In a relatively uneventful session, Rosberg's precision around the 'technical' track gave him a clear early advantage over Hamilton who found it unrewarding to throw his car around with his normal vigour.
Hamilton completed a hat-trick of successive wins at the Hungarian GP to move six points clear of Rosberg in the title race.
German GP: 1st free practice times at Hockenheim
1. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1:15.517,
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:15.843,
3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:16.667,
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari 1:16.852,
5. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:16.927,
6. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 1:17.089,
7. Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren 1:17.183,
8. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren 1:17.612,
9. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 1:18.008,
10. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Toro Rosso 1:18.044,
11. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber 1:18.198,
12. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:18.210,
13. Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams 1:18.322,
14. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1:18.589,
15. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India 1:18.591,
16. Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1:18.628,
17. Charles Leclerc (MON) Haas 1:18.882,
18. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Renault 1:18.933,
19. Felipe Nasr (BRA) Sauber 1:18.961,
20. Estban Ocon (FRA) Renault 1:18.981,
21. Rio Haryanto (INA) Manor 1:19.167,
22. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Manor 1:19.975