After a sluggish start to the morning in which the Mercedes driver battled to dial into the changing circuit, the switch to soft rubber saw Nico Rosberg finish quickest in FP3.
Despite forecasts of rain, FP3 at the Interlagos circuit got underway on a dry track with just a few damp kerbs from overnight rain.
The Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat set the early pace before Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas entered the fray. The duo traded blows at the front while the Mercedes drivers had a slow start to the session.
Although Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were into the action almost from the onset, they were over two seconds off the pace.
Hamilton especially appeared to be struggling as he flat-spotted his front right only to lose the back end of his W05 two laps later, resulting in a spin and a return to the pits.
Back at the front, Felipe Massa went quickest with a 1:11.559 for the Williams driver.
The Brazilian held that position through to the soft tyres runs, which – as expected – saw the Mercedes drivers come to the fore.
After changes to the set-up of both cars, Rosberg ventured out for his soft tyre run and blitzed the competition.
He clocked a 1:10.446 while Hamilton joined his team-mate up at the front with a 1:10.560, 0.114s off the pace.
Massa took third place ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas while Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest.
Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were next in line, all finishing FP3 within a second of Rosberg’s P1 time.
01 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:10.446 28 laps
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.560 +0.114 20 laps
03 Felipe Massa Williams 1:10.875 +0.429 21 laps
04 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:11.054 +0.608 23 laps
05 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:11.188 +0.742 11 laps
06 Jenson Button McLaren 1:11.210 +0.764 19 laps
07 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:11.316 +0.870 15 laps
08 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:11.399 +0.953 8 laps
09 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:11.499 +1.053 19 laps
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:11.834 +1.388 26 laps
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:11.967 +1.521 21 laps
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:12.069 +1.623 29 laps
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:12.184 +1.738 27 laps
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:12.235 +1.789 30 laps
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:12.235 +1.789 29 laps
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:12.286 +1.840 24 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:12.324 +1.878 17 laps
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:12.942 +2.496 25 laps