Mark Webber set the fastest time in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix in another rain-affected session at Interlagos.
The Red Bull Racing driver claimed top spot in the drier final 10 minutes of the hour, setting his time of 1:27.891 on intermediate tyres on the second lap of his first time run of the session.
As the first to take on the green-banded Pirelli tyres, Webber’s time sparked a flurry of action in the final minutes of the session as rivals bolted on inters and explored the limits of the improving track.
Of Webber’s rivals it was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Heikki Kovalainen who fared best, with the Frenchman slotting into P2 behind the Red Bull man with a lap of 1:28.195 and his Finnish team-mate taking P3, four tenths further back.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth for Williams, ahead of Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Jean-Eric Vergne sixth for Toro Rosso. Esteban Gutierrez guided the second Sauber to seventh on the timesheet, finishing ahead of the second Williams of Pastor Maldonado and the twin Force India cars of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil, who were ninth and tenth respectively.
A number of expected frontrunners were conspicuous by their absence, however. Champion elect Sebastian Vettel, who had briefly held top spot during a long, stop-start opening phase conducted on full wet tyres in heavy rain, opted not to run on inters. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who set the session’s best time on the blue-banded tyres, also chose to remain in pit lane.
His team-mate Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, did not set a time at all, a choice also taken by Ferari’s Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and McLaren’s Jenson Button.
The session got off to a very slow start with only Esteban Gutierrez setting times for the first 20 minutes of the session. He was then joined by a handful of others but it wasn’t until Vettel set a wet tyre benchmark of 1:31.857 nearly 40 minutes into the session that any meaningful action took place.
With ten minutes to go Webber appeared on the intermediates for his first run and that at last was the catalyst for a busy final few minutes on the drying track.
2013 Brazilian Grand Prix Free Practice Three times
1 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:27.891
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:28.195 +0.304
3 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:28.595 +0.704
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:28.600 +0.709
5 Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 1:28.830 +0.939
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:28.921 +1.030
7 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1:29.215 +1.324
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:29.686 +1.795
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1:29.736 +1.845
10 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:29.913 +2.022
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.980 +2.089
12 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:29.988 +2.097
13 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:30.635 +2.744
14 Charles Pic Caterham 1:30.837 +2.946
15 Max Chilton Marussia 1:30.972 +3.081
16 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:31.154 +3.263
17 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:31.857 +3.966
18 Sergio Pérez McLaren 1:32.731 +4.840
19 Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
20 Fernando Alonso Ferrari no time
21 Jenson Button McLaren no time
22 Felipe Massa Ferrari no time