The Pole posted his quickest tour of a damp circuit on his final run to go three-tenths quicker than Sebastian Vettel.
The 60-minute session was held on a track soaked by overnight and morning rain, and all drivers who started the session did so on the extreme wet tyre. Set-up running would be crucial for this session, as – with the weather forecasting a dry race tomorrow but more rain this afternoon – drivers would want to find the ideal compromise in their set-up for the rest of the weekend.
Similarly, with such a limited allocation of wet tyres for a Grand Prix weekend, some drivers were reluctant to run too much mileage in this session in order to save their rubber for qualifying.
And so we saw a marked difference in the number of laps run by certain drivers, from which you could certainly infer who was comfortable, and who wasn’t. The Ferrari pairing and Mark Webber ran less than ten laps.
The Toro Rossos typically complete the most practice mileage in every practice session, and a sure-footed Sébastien Buemi posted a pleasing seventh-quickest on the timing screens by the end of the session after 26 tours. The only front-running driver to run up a significantly higher amount of laps was Jenson Button, which again indicates that the defending champion is struggling to find a workable set-up this weekend.
But with the circuit beginning to dry over the course of the session, Nico Hülkenberg was the first to gamble on a switch to intermediate tyres, and posted a 1:20.5 lap-time, in comparison to his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who posted a 1:22 lap-time on wet tyres.
This prompted the entire field to switch to intermediate tyres, and the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa promptly moved up the top of the order, ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel then went out on track and went two-tenths faster than the Ferraris.
The activity then died down in the final half-hour, that was until the closing minutes of the session when many drivers opted to go for a low-fuel qualifying simulation. During this time, Kubica went quicker than Vettel’s fastest time to head the order, while Hamilton also improved his best time to leapfrog the Ferraris and finish just three-hundredths slower than Vettel.
This pushed Massa and Alonso down to fourth and fifth, while Vitaly Petrov again showed his great touch on greasy track conditions with the sixth-quickest time. The top-ten was completed by Buemi, Nico Rosberg, Button and Barrichello.
Webber’s lack of laps – with his best set rather early and when the track was wetter – saw him slip down the order to eleventh overall.
Jarno Trulli was quickest of the rookie team drivers again, completing a confidence-boosting sweep at Sao Paulo as the outfits head into qualifying.
And with the rain forecast to stay around until the end of the day, he’ll certainly be hoping for some of the more established runners to slip up so he can take a surprise berth into Q2.
2010 Brazilian GP Practice 3 Session Times:
[Original images via GP Update]