Verstappen left it late to put in the fastest time of 1m32.194s using super-soft Pirellis and ended the session 0.110 seconds ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
With the track temperature at the start of the session so high, most opted to hang back for potentially slightly cooler conditions that would be closer to those for the evening qualifying session.
At the halfway mark of the 60-minute session, Toro Rosso pairing Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr held first and second place.
Valtteri Bottas was set to knock Kvyat off top spot when he headed out on super-softs, but he locked up and ran off the circuit at the last corner, ruining his lap.
Instead, Felipe Massa put his Williams fastest with a 1m32.801s, only to be relegated to second by soft-shod Verstappen.
Romain Grosjean then lost the rear of his Haas through Turn 4, spinning into the barrier and losing his nose.
The session was red-flagged, but the delay was only five minutes as Grosjean recovered to the pits without assistance.
Shortly after the restart, Kimi Raikkonen went fastest with a 1m32.785s, despite running wide at the final corner, before being relegated to second by Bottas.
Vettel was also out on super-softs, but his first lap was only good enough for fourth after he ran wide exiting Turn 7 before setting what was then the fastest time of the session at his second attempt.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Verstappen sets practice three pace