SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS - Nico Rosberg kicked off his Belgian Grand Prix in fine style, topping Lewis Hamilton by seven tenths and setting his fastest lap with the Halo on his car.
Rosberg was one of four drivers to test the Halo device in the morning and went out on the super-soft compound, the quickest tyre available this weekend. The 1:48.348 he set remained the benchmark for the rest of the session, with Hamilton finishing seven tenths down despite running his own super-soft lap without the Halo on his car. Hamilton's imminent grid penalty means it is likely the world champion is focusing more on his race set-up rather than one-lap pace.
Rosberg was joined in the Halo test by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg. Despite its rejection for next year, the FIA is determined to carry out extensive research of the Halo ahead of possible implementation in 2018.
Kimi Raikkonen finished third, less than a tenth down on Hamilton despite his fastest time being set on the soft compound. Sergio Perez was the surprise of the session, splitting the Ferrari drivers for fourth position, finishing half a second up on Sebastian Vettel. Hulkenberg looked pacey in the other Force India, finishing in sixth. Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh for Red Bull ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and teammate Max Verstappen. Red Bull will certainly hope to improve on seventh and ninth later in the weekend. Esteban Gutierrez rounded off the top ten despite several complaints about his brakes during the session.
Romain Grosjean finished 11th in the other Haas. The French driver appeared to be struggling with his car, running wide late in the session. Felipe Massa finished 12th for Williams, ahead of Marcus Ericsson, running a Sauber with a raft of new upgrades which the team has finally introduced after its recent takeover. Carlos Sainz finished 14th, splitting Ericsson and his Sauber teammate Felipe Nasr.
Manor new boy Esteban Ocon finished an impressive 16th in a session which saw him overshoot his pit box on entry. The Frenchman finished the session over a second clear of Pascal Wehrlein, who finished behind Daniil Kvyat and Jenson Button in 19th in a frustrating morning for McLaren. Renault drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer took the next two positions, with the latter complaining of a loss of power in the second half of the session. Fernando Alonso's morning lasted for just three laps, with a water leak curtailing his running -- a disappointing start with Honda's upgraded power unit and the fact the Spaniard came into the weekend hoping to spring a surprise on some of McLaren's nearest rivals.