US GP: Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in final practice

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the final Formula 1 practice session for the United States Grand Prix as the teams finally got some dry running.

Vettel outpaced Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen by less than a tenth, while championship leader and Friday pacesetter Lewis Hamilton jumped to third late on as Ferrari and Mercedes adopted different approaches to an unusually busy Saturday practice.

After both Friday practices took place in wet conditions, there was a flurry of activity at the start of FP3 with qualifying and the race due to be held in the dry.

The Ferraris were alone in using the ultrasoft tyres at first as others focused on longer runs, with Raikkonen heading Vettel by just 0.04s after their first efforts.

Race preparations meant there was little of note in the first half an hour, although Raikkonen did improve to a 1m34.419s, while Bottas and Fernando Alonso engaged in an odd wheel-to-wheel scrap when Alonso dived inside the Mercedes into Turn 1 and Bottas repassed the McLaren around the outside into Turn 2.

Mercedes told Bottas Alonso was “playing games” as it continued to focus on long runs, but that changed in the second half-hour when a flurry of fast laps were carried out.

Bottas avoided the ultrasofts but did push on supersofts, setting a 1m34.446s, while Hamilton made a small mistake on his first push lap and then posted a time one tenth slower than his teammate after a couple of laps at lower speed.

The Ferraris completed their third runs on fresh ultrasofts of the session, and Vettel used this to finally leapfrog Raikkonen into P1 by 0.046s on 1m33.797s.

That remained the benchmark to the end, although a late effort from Hamilton got him ahead of teammate Bottas.

Hamilton threatened to go fastest having set the best middle sector of the session with two minutes to go but eventually lapped a tenth off Vettel after losing time at the end of the lap.

He ended up within a tenth of his title rival and 0.7s clear of Bottas, who set his best time on supersofts.

The Red Bulls trailed a few tenths behind Bottas, Max Verstappen leading Daniel Ricciardo, while Charles Leclerc snuck to the front of the best-of-the-rest battle in a whirlwind of last-gasp improvement.

Leclerc’s 1m35.365s put him half a tenth clear of Sergio Perez as Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean lapped within and just outside a tenth of the Sauber driver respectively. 

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