Lewis Hamilton ensured his British Grand Prix weekend got off to the best possible start by leading the way in opening practice.
Hamilton, who is bidding for a hat-trick of victories in front of his home crowd this weekend, posted a best lap of one minute and 31.654 seconds to finish the first session at an overcast Silverstone just 0.033 sec ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Championship leader Rosberg and Hamilton will be free to race for the remainder of the season despite their final-lap collision at the Austrian Grand Prix.
It had been feared that Mercedes would introduce team orders in the fall-out of the Spielberg crash which boss Toto Wolff described as “brainless”.
But Formula One’s all-conquering team instead issued a final warning to both their drivers with Hamilton and Rosberg warned they could be fined – or worse banned – if they collide again.
The decision by Mercedes not to implore team orders will come as a welcome relief to Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 11 points in his quest for a third successive championship, and indeed a record crowd of nearly 140,000 spectators expected at the Briton’s home track on Sunday.
Earlier on Friday, Ferrari ended speculation surrounding their driver line-up for the 2017 campaign by retaining Kimi Raikkonen for one more season.
Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was fourth fastest and nearly one second slower than Hamilton on Friday morning, also trialled a modified version of the halo in the opening moments of the 90-minute session.
The so-called ‘halo 2’, which is set to become mandatory next season, is a lighter, modified version of the driver-head safety device which was first trialled in winter testing.
Hamilton subsequently described the concept as the “worst looking modification in Formula One history”, and the latest version is unlikely to appease the world champion with its aesthetics remaining largely unchanged.
Instead the shape of the halo has been altered to avoid a driver hitting his head on the structure in an accident. It is also lighter than the first version, too.
For Jenson Button, the 2009 world championship, this could yet be his last British Grand Prix.
Button, out of contract with McLaren at the end of the season, was 12th on Friday morning. Jolyon Palmer, the British rookie, was 16th in the order.
Elsewhere, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive third with Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and Raikkonen sixth.
Final Times after First Practice:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 31.654secs
2 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31.687
3 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:32.492
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:32.501
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:32.773
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:33.039
7 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:33.202
8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:33.235
9 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.446
10 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:33.527
11 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.738
12 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:34.132
13 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:34.263
14 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:34.456
15 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:34.547
16 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault 1:34.787
17 Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.805
18 Charles Leclerc (Fra) Haas F1 1:35.869
19 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault 1:35.980
20 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.003
21 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Manor Racing 1:36.136
22 Rio Haryanto (Ina) Manor Racing 1:36.647