As four-tenths of a second covered the top four, the fifth-placed Williams of Valtteri Bottas was a long way back, over 1.2s off Hamilton’s pace. The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh respectively, followed by the second Williams of local hero Felipe Massa and the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, neither of whom ran the soft Pirelli tyres.
It was a sunny Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace that greeted the field as Hamilton carried on his recent form from the United States and Mexican Grands Prix. The world champion was fastest on both the medium and the soft tyres, though Verstappen ran him very close.
In the early running, Hamilton led points-leading team mate Rosberg with 1m 13.157s to 1m 13.187s on the mediums, ahead of the Red Bulls of Riccardo on 1m 13.342s and Verstappen on 1m 13.425s. Raikkonen headed Ferrari partner Vettel on the same rubber, 1m 13.955s to 1m 13.994s. But they were only seventh and eighth as Williams ran the softs so that Bottas and Massa were able to take fifth and sixth on 1m 13.710s and 1m 13.869s respectively.
On the soft rubber Verstappen went ahead with 1m 11.991s to top Rosberg, whose response was 1m 12.125s. But then Hamilton lapped in 1m 11.895s, which remained the fastest time, and later backed that with 1m 11.960s.
Ricciardo took fourth on 1m 12.371s, from Bottas on 1m 13.129s, the Force Indias of Perez and Hulkenberg on 1m 13.289s and 1m 13.293s, and Massa on 1m 13.318s.
Ferrari elected not to run the softs, leaving Vettel ninth on 1m 13.567s and Raikkonen 10th on 1m 13.569s. The German then spun at Turn 11, Mergulho, during his long-run simulation.
Outside the top 10, Toro Rosso headed McLaren, with Daniil Kvyat suffering a punctured right rear medium tyre during one run. At the back, Haas Friday runner Charles Leclerc was 21st fastest on 1m 15.391s in Esteban Gutierrez’s car, and Renault counterpart Sergey Sirotkin’s run in Kevin Magnussen’s machine was troubled by a mechanical problem which left him 22nd on 1m 15.800s to newly re-signed team mate Jolyon Palmer’s 19th fastest 1m 14.908s.