Just four-tenths of a second covered the top four, which was completed by Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. Also in the hunt were Felipe Massa, fifth for Williams, and Pastor Maldonado, sixth for Lotus.
Rounding out the top ten were Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Force India’s Sergio Perez, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.
There were more problems for Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo’s car coming to a halt on track with technical issues with just over 15 minutes remaining. The Australian, carrying a 25-place grid penalty, finished last in the times, with team mate Daniil Kvyat 17th.
Because of the rain, all of the quick times came right at the end of the session, with Hamilton going round in 1m 24.544s on the softer Pirelli tyre. Vettel cheered the tifosi with 1m 24.808s for Ferrari, 0.264s down, as Rosberg only marginally improved to 1m 24.843s for third.
Bottas was also under 1m 25s, with 1m 24.946s for Williams. Team mate Massa shadowed him with 1m 25.165s, while a late improvement from Maldonado, whom Lotus did not send out until the final 10 minutes, put the Venezuelan ahead of Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, 1m 25.242s to 1m 25.244s.
Perez kept Force India in play with 1m 25.515s for eighth fastest time, as Ericsson, despite complaining about power loss, took ninth for Sauber with 1m 25.692s. Grosjean completed the top 10 with 1m 25.747s for Lotus, ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr on 1m 25.912s.
Nico Hulkenberg didn’t quite get it together in his Force India, which he took round in 1m 26.141s, as Fernando Alonso pipped McLaren team mate Jenson Button right at the end. The Spaniard managed a more respectable 1m 26.632s, the Briton 1m 26.750s.
Will Stevens was a surprise 17th for Marussia on 1m 28.123s, but team mate Roberto Merhi aborted a lap quicker than the 1m 29.117s which left him 19th.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen had set the early pace on intermediates and then medium slicks as the track continued to dry, but did not venture out later on because there was little point putting miles on their fresh engines with their grid penalties coming up.
The Dutchman was 16th on 1m 28.215s, the Spaniard 18th on 1m 28.628s, sandwiching Daniil Kvyat who was in the same boat in the lead Red Bull. As the Russian lapped in 1m 28.591s, team mate Ricciardo was left 20th on 1m 29.900s after his RB11 rolled to a halt at the second chicane with a suspected engine issue halfway through.