Verstappen leads Vettel and Norris, trouble for Leclerc

Image by Steven Tee/LAT

Verstappen leads Vettel and Norris, trouble for Leclerc

Formula 1

Verstappen leads Vettel and Norris, trouble for Leclerc


Max Verstappen set the pace in final practice for the United States Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and a surprising Lando Norris, but Charles Leclerc failed to complete a lap.

Leclerc was accelerating through the high-speed Turns 16, 17 and 18 on his out lap when he suffered an issue, immediately slowing and putting the car into neutral as he ran off track. Although he was just one corner from the pit entry and had a downhill run, Leclerc was ordered to stop the car immediately and parked up at Turn 19 to bring out the Virtual Safety Car.

The Ferrari was quickly recovered but the team says it is still investigating the exact cause ahead of qualifying.

His teammate Vettel was second to Verstappen, with the Red Bull posting a 1m33.305s to lead Vettel by 0.218s. Norris finished third for McLaren — beating both Mercedes drivers — with a 1m33.818s, edging out Valtteri Bottas by a little under 0.1s.

Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth after hitting traffic on his soft tire run and needing a second lap, all but matching Bottas’ time to get ahead of Alexander Albon as 0.079s separated the two Mercedes cars and the Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz was seventh but 0.6s off teammate Norris, while Kimi Raikkonen showed some improved pace for Alfa Romeo in eighth ahead of Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo. Just over 0.3s covered Sainz to Lance Stroll in 12th — including five different midfield teams — while the Haas pair of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were 13th and 15th respectively.

While Leclerc was at the bottom of the standings, Sergio Perez was comfortably slowest of the runners to set a time as he focused on race pace. Perez has to start from the pit lane after missing a call to the FIA weigh bridge on Friday, and Racing Point has since opted to take a new power unit as it can do so without penalty.

Although a number of drivers complained about the bumps at Circuit of The Americas on Friday, there were few off-track incidents on a warmer Saturday afternoon, with only Vettel seeing a lap time deleted for running wide at Turn 19.

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