McLaren continued to dominate Brazilian Grand Prix free practice but in FP3 it was Jenson Button not Lewis Hamilton at the top of the order.
All through Friday Button was quick in the final sector of the lap but on Saturday morning he managed to hook up the earlier part of Interlagos to rise to the top of the order early in the running. He was on the hard tyre with a time of 1:14.419. He held that position for most of the hour and replicated his pace on a qualifying simulation medium tyre run in the last five minutes, his ultimate pace being 1:13.188.
Behind Button, Sebastian Vettel was once again in P2 for Red Bull Racing, five-hundredths down on the Briton. Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber was third, only two-tenths off the pace with only thousandths keeping him in front of fourth-placed Lewis Hamilton, who had been quickest in FP1 and FP2 on Friday.
Behind the top four, Romain Grosjean was fifth for Lotus, ahead of the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg. Fernando Alonso was eighth for Ferrari, with Pastor Maldonado’s Williams in between him and tenth-places Felipe Massa. The two Ferraris spent the middle part of the hour running in close formation. At Monza they worked on a towing strategy and there was speculation they were attempting the same at Interlagos on the long flat-out section from Juncao to Turn One.
The session started with track temperatures of around 34°C, cooler than yesterday which may have contributed to the large number of lock-ups that occurred in the early laps. Worse, however, was to befall Kimi Räikkönen. After his engine problems on Friday morning the Finn suffered again, this time stopping his smoking Lotus on the outlap of his first run.
Outside the top ten Bruno Senna was 11th in the second Williams, followed by Nico Rosberg for Mercedes. The two Sauber were 13th and 14th with Sergio Pérez ahead of Kamui Kobayashi. Michael Schumacher was 15th for Mercedes, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso. The backmarkers lined up in team order with Vitaly Petrov ahead of Heikki Kovalainen for Caterham, followed by Timo Glock and Charles Pic for Marussia, with Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan bringing up the rear for HRT, ahead of the stricken Räikkönen who did not set a time.