Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton were covered by just 0.073s in a dry final practice session for the United States Grand Prix.
As all of Friday’s running took place in the wet, the unexpected dry conditions for FP3 meant the final hour was an extremely busy one. Hamilton had dominated in the rain, but Ferrari led the way on Saturday, with Vettel posting a 1m33.797s to edge out teammate Raikkonen by just 0.046s.
While it was encouraging pace from Ferrari — who used its old floor after testing a new version on Friday — Vettel will still be able to start no higher than fourth place due to a grid penalty picked up on Friday, needing to ensure Hamilton doesn’t outscore him by more than seven points in order to keep the title fight alive.
Hamilton appeared to struggle for much of the session on the ultrasoft tire, but a quick final lap brought him right into contention as he registered a 1m33.870s. Hamilton was comfortably fastest through the middle sector but lost around half a second to Vettel in the final part of the lap.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth and three quarters of a second off the pace having set his best lap on supersoft tires. Bottas did try an ultrasoft lap late in the session but could not put a clean effort together, so ended up just 0.15s clear of Max Verstappen in fifth.
Behind Daniel Ricciardo in sixth, Charles Leclerc was best of the rest for Sauber, edging out Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean as just 0.1s covered four teams from seventh to tenth.
As was the case in Suzuka, McLaren faces a tall order to avoid being slowest in qualifying with Stoffel Vandoorne 18th and Fernando Alonso 20th, both posting their best times on the supersoft tire rather than the ultrasoft. The pair were split by Brendon Hartley, who made an error toward the end of his final low fuel attempt.
Hartley — who will start from the back alongside teammate Pierre Gasly due to power unit penalties — lost part of the aerodynamic fairing on his Halo while at nearly 185mph on the run to Turn 12 early in the session, with the Toro Rosso driver saying the wing hit him in the head as it detached. The New Zealander then had a spin at the end of the session, losing the rear in the final sector and failing to improve his time.
Qualifying looks set to take place in similar conditions later on Saturday afternoon, with the threat of rain having reduced significantly overnight in Austin.