Sebastian Vettel set the quickest time of the final practice session for the United States Grand Prix, outpacing Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen by less than a tenth of a second as championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished third.
On Friday, Vettel’s hopes of maintain a fragile title challenge were hit when he incurred a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently during a red flag period, but he bounced back this morning as F1’s teams finally got some dry running at the Circuit of the Americas.
Ferrari focused its attention on the ultrasoft tyre during the one-hour session and after the early pace was set by Räikkönen with a time of 1:34.419, Vettel took over at the top of the timesheet with a time of 1:33.797, displacing Räikkönen who dropped to P2 with a lap of 1:33.843.
Of the likely front runners Ferrari were alone in running the ultrasofts in the early part of the session, with both Mercedes and Red Bull concentrating on longer runs on the supersoft compound.
It meant that Hamilton was a late adopted of the ultrasoft tyres and after a scruffy opening flyer on the purple-banded tyre, the Briton later jumped to third place with a best time of 1:33.870. The lap left him just 0.073 behind Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth overall with a time of 1:34.556, some 0.759s off Vettel’s pace. The Finn avoided the ultrasofts throughout the session however and set his best time on the red-banded supersoft tyre.
Behind Bottas were the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. The pair both focused on supersoft running early in the session but moved to ultrasofts with a little over 20 minutes remaining. Verstappen’s best time on the compound was 1:34.703, 0.906 adrift of Vettel’s P1 time.
Ricciardo might have eclipsed his team-mate’s time and the Australian was a couple of tenths up on his team-mate after the first two sectors of his run, but he was forced to back out of the lap when yellow flags were shown when Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley spun in Turn 19.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc finished as best-of-the-rest in P7 with a time of 1:35.365, 1.568s off Vettel, while Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez was eighth with a time of 1:35.411. Ninth place went to Renault’s Carlos Sainz, while Haas’ Romain Grosjean was tenth with a time of 1:35.468, 1.671 off the pace.
2018 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix– Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.797 20
2 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.843 0.046 21
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.870 0.073 23
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:34.556 0.759 21
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:34.703 0.906 21
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:34.910 1.113 20
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:35.365 1.568 21
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point Force India 1:35.411 1.614 21
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:35.450 1.653 21
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:35.468 1.671 19
11 Esteban Ocon Racing Point Force India 1:35.562 1.765 22
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso1:35.713 1.916 27
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:35.770 1.973 19
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.882 2.085 19
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:36.000 2.203 21
16 Lance Stroll Williams 1:36.188 2.391 21
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:36.193 2.396 20
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:36.302 2.505 23
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:36.330 2.533 26
20 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:36.332 2.535 20