In a drama filled Free Practice 1, it was DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird who set the fastest time of the morning with 1:01.698s, just off Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas di Grassi's record time last year of 1:01.359s. With di Grassi in second (1:01.716s) and Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler) in third (1:01.790s), all three drivers finished the session with less than a 10th of a second between them.
With cold temperatures on track and little warmth in the tyres and brakes, the session proved problematic for Panasonic Jaguar Racing's Nelson Piquet Jr and Mahindra Racing's Felix Rosenqvist.
Just 15-minutes into the session, Piquet Jr lost the rear of the car and collided with the wall, causing significant damage to the front. Being collected by the BMW i8 Qualcomm Safety Car, Piquet headed back to the garage, with racing suspended while his stricken car was collected.
With Mitch Evan's 10-place grid penalty already in place for a gearbox change yesterday, Jaguar will have to work hard today to make up for it.
Towards the end of the session, Felix Rosenqvist lost control of the car just ahead of the pit entrance, drifting around the corner before smashing nose first into the barrier. Like Piquet Jr, Rosenquist had to run back to the garage to switch cars. With his first car recovered, the racing got back underway with the majority of the field running smoothly for the remainder of the session, albeit with a couple of drivers locking up the wheels as they adjusted to the cooler temperatures.
With Free Practice 2 starting at 10:30 local time, stay tuned for more track action.