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Nico Rosberg will take the fastest time of the weekend so far into qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix after topping third free practice ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Though disrupted on his fastest lap towards the end of the session by Felipe Nasr through turn one, Rosberg's efforts were still good enough for a 1min 39.690secs lap as track temperatures continued to soar to a peak of 62 degrees.

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Following his 'compromised' first day in the Mercedes due to mechanical issues, Hamilton was a late starter in FP3 and once out complained of difficulties under braking. Nonetheless, he remained less than two tenths behind Rosberg ahead of qualifying as Mercedes reasserted its customary 1-2 position.

Even so, Ferrari remains fairly within range with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel both half a second off the ultimate pace as they stamp their mark on the second row, the pair two tenths clear of the Williams' Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in fifth and sixth.

The closest session of the weekend thus far, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz were also both within a second of the top time in seventh and eighth, with Max Verstappen and Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top ten, the latter looking an increasingly strong candidate for a maiden Q3 appearance later today in the Sauber.

Lotus ended the session just outside the top ten, with Romain Grosjean leading Pastor Maldonado, ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso continues to head up McLaren's challenge on his return to action, ending FP3 2.3secs off the top time and ahead of Sergio Perez, the wayward Nasr - who ran off track on his medium tyre run - and team-mate Jenson Button, who has also reportedly lost an engine following an overnight change.

Behind them, Manor's Will Stevens ended FP3 on the cusp of the 107 per cent range ahead of a crucial qualifying for the returning team - albeit by only a tenth -, while Robert Merhi, who suffered a spin, is four tenths adrift.

Despite the searing temperatures, forecasts have predicted that rain may occur by the time qualifying gets underway at 17.00 local time (09.00 GMT)