Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were a low-key 16th and 18th respectively but shirked the fastest tyre compounds and set their best times on Hards.
Nico Hulkenberg was fourth for Haas and faces a post-session investigation after an unusual collision with Lando Norris at Juncao, with the pair lightly brushing wheels.
Neither McLaren driver set a representative time on Soft tyres, with Norris and Oscar Piastri slowest of all, though the Australian had set the fastest time through the opening pair of sectors before opting to pit.
Williams had both drivers in the top 10, with Alex Albon fifth and Logan Sargeant ninth, the latter recovering to the track after a suspension complaint.
Lance Stroll was sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
Fernando Alonso had a puncture early in the session before returning to finish in 11th position while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was 12th.
Qualifying for the São Paulo Grand Prix is scheduled for 15:00 local time