Lewis Hamilton has returned to the top of the timesheets by posting the quickest time in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Overnight rain meant that the grip levels worn into the circuit were washed away, leaving drivers to rubber in the circuit again before setting out to post qualifying lap simulations.

Mercedes chose not to run in the first portion of FP3, as they felt they didn’t need to complete much running on the medium compound and could let other teams settle the track for them.

Kimi Raikkonen was the quickest of the session early on for Ferrari posting a 1:14.373, which he quickly bettered by two and a half tenths. Max Verstappen did his best to match Raikkonen’s time in second but could only manage to get within seven-tenths of a second.

Sebastian Vettel then made his way to the track and demoted his team-mate from first position by 0.038 seconds. Valtteri Bottas jumped into third place and within a second of Vettel’s time, although Verstappen was quick to beat the Finn’s best lap by a tenth of a second.

Hamilton made his first appearance in the session after 20 minutes, however, his W06 stopped on track as it lost gears. The Briton managed to get it going again and returned back to the pits.

The small interruption only lasted a few minutes before he was back onto the circuit, where he slotted into second position behind team-mate Nico Rosberg who had posted his second fastest lap of a 1:13.324.

On his next timed run, Hamilton lost control of the rear of his car and spun on the exit of Turn 10 and into Turn 11, flat-spotting his set of medium compound Pirellis.

With 15 minutes left to run in the session, Daniel Ricciardo joined his team-mate Daniil Kvyat in making the switch to the soft compound tyre. The Australian put his Red Bull in second position behind Rosberg and 0.25 seconds ahead of Kvyat.

The rest of the field also made the switch to their qualifying simulations and put on fresh soft tyres, with Hamilton posting the benchmark time of the session, a 1:12.070.

Rosberg made two attempts to challenge his team-mates time but aborted the laps, despite being quicker in the first sector by two-tenths of a second. The German posted one flying lap on the soft compounds to close the gap to a tenth of a second to Hamilton, losing time in the final two sectors. Vettel was 0.690 seconds behind in third position.

Qualifying takes place at 14:00 local time (GMT -2).

Formula 1 Grande Prêmio Petrobras do Brasil 2015 – Free Practice 3 Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:12.070 16
2. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:12.193 + 0.123 19
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:12.760 + 0.690 19
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:13.096 + 1.026 20
5. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:13.335 + 1.265 25
6. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B 1:13.345 + 1.275 19
7. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:13.437 + 1.367 19
8. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B 1:13.506 + 1.436 18
9. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:13.534 + 1.464 20
10. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:13.548 + 1.478 21
11. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:13.572 + 1.502 23
12. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:13.742 + 1.672 24
13. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:13.829 + 1.759 17
14. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:13.850 + 1.780 19
15. Carlos Sainz es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:13.959 + 1.889 23
16. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:14.185 + 2.115 23
17. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:14.288 + 2.218 22
18. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:14.445 + 2.375 17
19. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B 1:16.671 + 4.601 15
20. Alexander Rossi us Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B 1:17.059 + 4.989 15

Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas

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Josh Kruse

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