ON TOP: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets during the third final practice of the 2015 Japanese GP. Image: AFP / Yuriko Nakao
Suzuka, Japam - Nico Rosberg and world champion Lewis Hamilton filled the top two slots on the timesheets in final Japanese Grand Prix practice on Saturday (September 26) as Mercedes bounced back from last weekend's Singapore flop.
Germany's Rosberg, 41 points behind his British team mate and rival with six races remaining, lapped the fast Suzuka circuit with a best time of 1min33.995 seconds on a sunny morning.
Hamilton, chasing his eighth victory of the season and 12th pole in 14 races, was 0.297 slower with Australian Daniel Ricciardo third quickest for Renault-engined Red Bull but more than half a second off the pace.
The Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were fourth and fifth as Mercedes-powered cars filled four of the top five places.
Mercedes had arrived in Japan looking for answers after their dominance disappeared in Singapore, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel winning from pole position.
With Friday's two sessions largely washed out by rain, Saturday was the first chance to assess the teams' relative performance.
Vettel was only eighth fastest, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen sixth and just quicker than Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen.
Verstappen is competing in his last race as a 17-year-old, with the Dutch teenager turning 18 next week.
Britain's Jenson Button was 12th fastest for McLaren in engine partner Honda's home race.
2015 Japanese GP 3rd practice results
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min33.995
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min34.292
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1min34.497
4. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min34.797
5. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min34.934
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min35.082
7. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min35.160
8. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min35.222
9. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 1min35.602
10. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min35.963
11. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min36.110
12. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min36.174
13. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 1min36.199
14. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull - Renault 1min36.294
15. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1min36.307
16. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min36.360
17. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min36.430
18. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1min36.919
19. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min39.653
20. Alexander Rossi (U.S.) Marussia - Ferrari 1min39.819