Nico Rosberg made the most of the mixed conditions at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace as the championship leader set the pace in final practice on Saturday morning.
In a session that started with drivers running on either intermediate or full wet tyres following a shower, Rosberg led the way for his Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team with a time of 1:11.740, just 0.093 seconds ahead of team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was the first driver to venture out on the Soft tyre but after a couple of off track moments at turn four, he returned to the pits, but it was not long before it became apparent dry tyres were the way to go, with the Williams Martini Racing drivers initially hitting the top spot, although both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were forced to dodge a rogue umbrella that came out of the crowd and landed on the apex of turn one.
Behind the leading duo came the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, with Sebastian Vettel also able to dip beneath the 1:12 second barrier, getting within 0.219 seconds of Rosberg’s pace, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen just missed out on joining them in the 1:11’s, missing out by just 0.027 seconds.
Max Verstappen was a further 0.050 seconds back on Raikkonen in fifth in the leading Red Bull Racing machine, proving just how tight it could be during the all-important qualifying session later in the day, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo locked up on his qualifying simulation, and as a result ended up sixth, 0.547 seconds behind Rosberg and 0.210 seconds down on Verstappen.
Bottas and Massa were seventh and ninth respectively, unable to match their positions from Friday, while in between the duo was the leading Renault Sport Formula 1 Team RS16 of Jolyon Palmer, who heads into this weekend knowing his Formula 1 future is secure within the Enstone-based team, at least for 2017.
After early worries in the pit lane that he would require a gearbox change, which would have generated a five-place grid drop penalty, Fernando Alonso managed to get some decent running in during the second half of the session, and ended up tenth quickest for McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team. It was important for the Spaniard to get some track time after stopping on track during Friday’s second session at turn three.
Neither of the Sahara Force India F1 Team racers made it into the top ten, but Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez will be hoping for better during qualifying than their eleventh and twelfth in final practice, while the second Renault of Kevin Magnussen, this weekend confirmed to be moving to the Haas F1 Team in 2017, was thirteenth, just ahead of the leading Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 of Carlos Sainz Jr.
Romain Grosjean was fifteenth for Haas despite a late session spin at turn four that he felt was ‘weird’ over the radio, while team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, who will be replaced by Magnussen next season was just behind the Frenchman in sixteenth.
Daniil Kvyat took his Toro Rosso to seventeenth ahead of the second McLaren of Jenson Button, who had a small moment towards the end of his own session when he appeared to have a telemetry issue that required him to briefly stop on track before returning to the pits.
Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon were nineteenth and twenty-first respectively for the Manor Racing MRT team, either side of the leading Sauber F1 Team machine of Felipe Nasr, but unfortunately for team-mate Marcus Ericsson, the Swede failed to set a time in the session due to an engine issue, and his mechanics face a race against time to change it ahead of qualifying.
Autódromo José Carlos Pace Free Practice 3 Result
|5||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:12.077|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:12.287|
|11||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1:13.203|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1:13.231|
|14||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:13.293|
|17||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:13.609|
|22||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber-Ferrari||No Time|