Rosberg heads Hamilton in P3

Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice ahead of qualifying for the German Grand Prix from Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg, the current championship leader, lapped the 4.574km circuit in a time of 1:17.779s to end the session 0.601s faster than his title rival - Hamilton having set the pace on Friday afternoon.

Conditions during P3 might not have been as hot as they were for second practice but they were certainly heading that way, with temperatures nudging 30 degrees and the track temperature pushing 50.

Thermometers are expected to climb further still on Saturday afternoon but on the evidence seen so far this weekend, the heat - as it has been all season - will likely be felt most of all by the duelling Silver Arrows as they battle for pole position.

Certainly, any threat posed by Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo in particular appeared to wilt during the session. The Australian got to within a tenth of the Mercedes pair on Friday, offering the prospect that the defending World Champions might have gained on their rivals as a result of the decision to remove FRIC suspension from cars.

Ricciardo, who said after Friday practice that he feared he'd already taken all the performance he could out of his car, ended the session P7 with team-mate and defending champion Sebastian Vettel ninth overall, although the usual practice caveats should be applied.

Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Ferrari, about 0.6s slower than Rosberg, with Williams pair Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas showing improvement on their Friday performances with fourth and fifth fastest respectively.

The top ten was completed by Kevin Magnussen (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India).

With Williams running one-two 20 minutes in - Bottas at this stage 0.3s faster than Massa on the prime tyre - the Mercedes drivers were about a second off the pace on longer runs.

Raikkonen became the first driver to switch to the supersoft option after about half an hour and although he moved P1, a fuel system problem brought the Finn's running to a premature halt.

With Raikkonen's car up on stands, Alonso took to the track on options with about ten minutes to go and went half a second quicker.

Meanwhile, McLaren have become the first team to play their gear ratio 'joker' - the free change allowed by the FIA this season - which Eric Boullier told Sky Sports F1 was to try and help improve their performance during the rest of the season.