Nico Rosberg goes into qualifying in good confidence, as he beats his Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

The track at Interlagos was damp at the start of the session, but had dramatically dried as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went third with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, just two-tenths off Rosberg’s pace. After them it was both Red Bull’s of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo who were half a second of the Mercedes pace.

The Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were seventh and ninth respectively, were split by a very impressive performance from Jolyon Palmer in the Renault. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.

After the forecast of rain arrived earlier than expected, the track was still wet when Hamilton very boldly went out on the soft compound tyres to set a initial benchmark of 1m 20.910’s.

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After being told to run revised rear tyre pressures from yesterday, Bottas took over for Williams with a 1m 15.048s on softs before Massa went even quicker by two seconds with conditions improving. Then Raikkonen went ahead for Ferrari with 1m 12.860s as Red Bull ran both their drivers on mediums and Hamilton and Rosberg focused on long race runs.

Ricciardo and Verstappen both traded second place for a while before Vettel took it with 1m 13.198s on softs as Raikkonen improved to 1m 12.530s. Vettel then cut down to 1m 12.661s as Verstappen’s 1m 13.219s on mediums left him only in third.

When Red Bull switched to softs with 15 minutes of the session to go, Ricciardo went fastest with 1m 12.287s as Palmer jumped up to a very strong but surprising fourth for Renault on softs with 1m 12.968s.

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Then Verstappen did 1m 12.077s to go top of the timesheets, before being replaced immediately by Rosberg’s 1m 11.787s.  Hamilton did only one lap which yielded 1m 11.833s as Vettel joined them beneath 1m 12s with 1m 11.959s.

Behind the leading trio, Raikkonen’s 1m 12.027s held up for fourth ahead of Verstappen, with Ricciardo sixth ahead of the Williams duo, who were split by Palmer; Bottas lapped in 1m 12.614s, Palmer that 1m 12.968s, and Massa 1m 12.990s. Alonso completed the top 10 with 1m 13.002s for McLaren.

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There was bad news for Sauber, with Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson cemented to the bottom of the timesheets, only completing just one lap before the team decided the Swede will need an engine change ahead of qualifying.

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