In a session which saw temperatures on the newly resurfaced track climb as high as 54 degrees Celsius, Rosberg had the upper hand on title rival Hamilton, lapping in 1m 12.123s to the Briton's 1m 12.336s. Hamilton, however, appeared to be on a quicker lap when he decided to come into the pits. Both probably had time in their pockets, as their advantage over rivals Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams was smaller than usual.
Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest as he overshadowed Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard brought out the session's second red flag when, with 25 minutes to go, his F14 T rolled to a halt between Turns 3 and 4 and promptly spewed flames from its rear. Alonso, who finished seventh on 1m 13.122s, helped extinguish the fire, as Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and the two Williams drivers separated him from the Mercedes.
Raikkonen lapped in 1m 12.696s, and despite an off-track moment he was seemingly much happier with his car than he had been in the morning. Ricciardo managed 1m 12.956s in his Red Bull, while Valtteri Bottas took his Williams back from Felipe Nasr to lap in 1m 13.033s. Home favourite Felipe Massa was on his tail with 1m 13.099s in the second FW36.
The first red flag had come early on when Jean-Eric Vergne was told to stop his Toro Rosso because of imminent mechanical woes just after he'd lapped in 1m 17.171s. The third stoppage came only moments after Alonso's car had been cleared away, when Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber ground to a halt at the end of a day of ongoing ERS problems for the Mexican.
Daniil Kvyat was again quick for Toro Rosso with the eighth fastest time of 1m 13.254s, though by the end of the session he described the STR9 as 'undriveable' as he struggled with his tyres in track conditions that Hamilton had earlier described as 'difficult'.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel ended up ninth on 1m 13.333s, ahead of Kevin Magnussen's McLaren on 1m 13.479s, Pastor Maldonado's rapidly improving Lotus on 1m 13.497s, team mate Romain Grosjean on 1m 13.714s in the sister E22, Nico Hulkenberg in the only operational Force India on 1m 13.882s and Gutierrez on 1m 13.902s.
Adrian Sutil had problems with his Sauber on his way to 1m 14.204s, as did Jenson Button who complained that McLaren had sent him out in traffic; he never got a decent run on the soft Pirellis and had to make do with 1m 14.209s for 16th.
Vergne wound up 17th, while Sergio Perez never got a look in. The Mexican's car was still being repaired after Daniel Juncadella shunted it in the morning, and had a problem with heat sink firing up the Mercedes engine.