After he'd watched Lewis Hamilton set the fastest times in both Practice One and Two yesterday at a canter, Nico Rosberg turned the tables on Saturday morning, recording a lap nine hundredths of a second quicker than Hamilton, who had to settle for second best.
Hamilton was followed by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who showed a welcome change in form. Max Verstappen's Red Bull was also firmly in the mix, three tenths off of Rosberg's lap.
Ominous rain clouds threatened to force the teams into wet running through the hour, although bar a damp start to the session that saw several cars complete their installation laps on the extreme wet tyres; the track remained dry.
Plenty of problems for drivers in Brazil
Although for some, it never rains - it pours. After problems curtailed his Practice Two - and prompted him to try his work at being a cameraman - Fernando Alonso's McLaren Honda started the hour in pieces, undergoing severe repairs in the wake of the MGU-H water leak yesterday. Both Alonso and Jenson Button - who not only had problems yesterday, but today - have changed their power units. Alonso did leave the garage with half-an-hour to go, and set the 10th fastest time, seven tenths faster than the struggling Button - who complained about a lack of front-end grip.
And as the drizzle subsided, the soft tyres were the order of the day. However, the wind continued, even managing to launch a poorly secured parasol onto the track, at the inside of Turn 1. Both the Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas just about managed to miss the detritus that brought about a set of yellow flags, compromising several fast runs. But, when the yellow flags were reeled in, both Massa and Bottas were the pace-setters, the veteran Brazilian edging out the Finn.
Although he made the call for slick tyres, Hamilton initially struggled to get them plugged in, running wide at Turn 4, albeit not helped by a small pool of standing water.
With the ambient and track temperatures relatively cool, Vettel and Raikkonen flew in the Ferraris, Raikkonen shedding seconds and tenths off of his best lap time with each passing round. However, the Prancing Horses may have been supreme in the fast first and last sectors; both Vettel and Raikkonen struggled with traffic in Sector 2, thus conceding lap time to the two Mercedes, who entered the fray late on.
Despite having a pleasant start to the weekend, having announced the signing of Renault's Kevin Magnussen, Haas endured a trying hour. Romain Grosjean flew off the track at Turn 4 late on in the session, and was perplexed by the occurrence, shouting down the radio "Something is weird on the car". One would suspect that the all too familiar brake-by-wire problem reared its ugly head.
The most surprising performance came from Jolyon Palmer, who managed to drag his Renault into eighth position.
Towards the end of the session, both Rosberg and Hamilton mounted their final attacks, Rosberg fastest - just, with a 1:11.740, Hamilton trailing by 0.093.
With more than just the Mercedes cars showing pace this morning, the all important Qualifying session this afternoon is poised to be quite the spectacle.
|5||Max VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull||1:12.077||+0.337||19|
|6||Daniel RICCIARDO||Red Bull||1:12.287||+0.547||21|
|11||Nico HULKENBERG||Force India||1:13.203||+1.463||14|
|12||Sergio PEREZ||Force India||1:13.231||+1.491||19|
|14||Carlos SAINZ||Toro Rosso||1:13.293||+1.553||19|
|17||Daniil KVYAT||Toro Rosso||1:13.609||+1.869||13|
|-||Marcus ERICSSON||Sauber||No Time||1|