United States GP: Hamilton completes practice sweep

United States GP: Hamilton completes practice sweep:

Lewis Hamilton edged out Formula 1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to set the pace in final practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver clocked a 1m34.478s, which is a new track record, to beat Vettel by just 0.092 seconds, with Valtteri Bottas two tenths off the pace in third.

Hamilton set the early pace, clocking a 1m35.125s on his second lap on the ultrasoft tyres, with Bottas 0.420s adrift in second.

Vettel, whose Ferrari team changed his chassis overnight, then slotted into second, 0.002s quicker than Bottas, with Kimi Raikkonen 0.02s further back in fourth.

Daniel Ricciardo was another half a second further back in fifth, with teammate Verstappen – who will have a 15-place grid penalty for engine component changes – ran wide at Turn 7 on his first lap on the ultrasoft tyres.

The Red Bull driver reported a “massive loss” of rear grip, which Red Bullsuggested could be down to gusting wind at that corner.

Attention then turned to qualifying simulations, with the field bolting on fresh sets of the ultrasoft tyres in the final third of the one-hour session.

Verstappen improved to the second fastest time, less than a tenth behind Hamilton, but then the times started to tumble as Vettel pumped in a 1m34.570s.

The Ferrari driver’s time at the top was short-lived, though, as Hamilton snuck back ahead.

Hamilton attempted a second flying lap on that set of tyres and though a 1m35.547s was fractionally slower, it did mean he clocked the two quickest laps of the session.

Bottas ended up third quickest, two tenths off the pace, with Raikkonen a fraction further back in fourth and Verstappen shuffled down to fifth despite a late improvement that reduced the deficit to 0.625s.

There were a flurry of low-fuel runs just minutes before the end of the session, with Felipe Massa popping into sixth, 0.868s off the pace in the Williams.

Nico Hulkenberg slotted into seventh, 1.130s off the pace and just 0.042s clear of Renault teammate Carlos Sainz.

Ricciardo left his second run on the ultrasofts until the final moments of the session, but though he set a personal best in the first sector, he backed out of it after running wide at Turn 9 and ended up ninth.

Force India’s Sergio Perez completed the top 10, just over a tenth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was told by his team to abort his final run because of traffic.

McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne completed their low-fuel runs earlier than rivals, initially sitting in the top 10 before dropping down to 13th and 14th respectively.

Brendon Hartley, who is competing in his first grand prix weekend, ended up 15th quickest, 2.340s off the pace in the Toro Rosso.

His teammate Daniil Kvyat managed just six laps after reporting something strange with the car and subsequently being recalled to the garage.

There was frustration for Romain Grosjean, who lost the rear of his Haas at Turn 7 midway through the session and ended up beached in the gravel.