Championship leader Nico Rosberg took his first blow against championship rival Lewis Hamilton as he outpaced the Brit in the final practice session. Mixed weather conditions left the Interlagos circuit overcast for the last 60 minutes of running.
It was a close battle for third between Red Bull and Ferrari but it was Sebastian Vettel who took thrid place on the time board.
For most of the session, the Mercedes pair sat at the very bottom of the time sheet. Both completing long runs on slick tyres in the bizzare weather conditions, they were over two seconds off the pace. Rosberg still managed to keep ahead, faster than Hamilton by about half a second.
It was in the last ten minutes when the final qualifying simulation laps started that Mercedes rocketed to the top. Rosberg set the benchmark of a 1:11.740 – the fastest lap time set this weekend so far – and it was up to Hamitlon to go fastesr. He missed beating his teammate by a mere 0.093 seconds, a very similar margin to what Hamitlon had over Rosberg at the end of Free Practice Two.
The top six ran two-by-two once again as the Ferrari duo came out ahead of the Red Bull pair. Vettel was 0.219 seocnds off the pace with Kimi Raikkonen 0.289 seconds down. Third place had been held by all four of the drivers but it was Vettel who took it in the final few minutes.
Max Verstappen lead home teammate Daniel Ricciardo for fifth and sixth. Verstappen was only a tenth off the Ferrari pair, 0.337 seconds off the overall pace, whilst Ricciardo has a bit more time to find. He was three-tenths off Constructor’s rivals Ferrari and 0.547 seconds off of Rosberg.
Red Bull will take second in the Constructor’s Championship this weekend if they can outscore Ferrari by 23 points.
From yesterday’s highs of 52C track temperature, today’s running has already shown to be much cooler. With the overcast weather and iminent threat of rain hanging over the Brazilian circuit the hottest the track got in the 60-minute session was 25C.
As rain hit the track at the start of the session, most driver who headed out went straight for the full wet tyres. It was clear quickly that the track was barely even damp, and after ten minutes of the session it was slick tyre conditions on track.
Valtteri Bottas was seventh and the final drvier to finish the session within a second of pace-setter Rosberg. A surprise appearence in the top ten was Jolyon Palmer, who finished four tenths slower than Bottas. It will be interesting to see if the Brit can repeat this performance when it comes to qualifying.
Palmer split the two Williams, with Felipe Massa in ninth. Fernando Alonso, after a troubled start, finished off the top ten. A gear box issue that had affected Alonso’s Friday running nearly saw the two-time Champion sitting out of the final practice session. McLaren got him out about halfway through the session to check if there was still a gear box issue. Luckily, it appears McLaren have resolved the issue, thus avoiding a five-place grid drop for the race.
Marcus Ericsson was the only driver not to set a time as an engine issue stopped him from leaving the garage. Sauber had to change his engine through the session and hopefully the car will be ready for qualifying. There was originally concern that the same issue was on Felipe Nasr’s car which delayed the Brazilian getting out on track. It was not and Nasr finished the session 20th.