Double world champion Max Verstappen moved to the top of the times in final practice for the United States Grand Prix, beating the Ferrari drivers by over 0.3s.
Verstappen had struggled slightly with his car’s handling in FP1 and then the second session on Friday was largely run by Pirelli as part of a tire test, with Ferrari leading on both occasions. However, Verstappen looked more comfortable in Saturday’s final practice, ending FP3 with a late flying lap of 1m35.825s that left him 0.320s clear of Charles Leclerc in second place.
Leclerc will take a grid penalty after qualifying — as will Sergio Perez who was fourth overall — so Carlos Sainz is likely to be Verstappen’s biggest threat for pole position and the Spaniard was third fastest, 0.446s adrift of the lead Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth despite aborting one run when he ran wide at the final corner — one of many such moments for drivers in gusty conditions — although the seven-time world champion was a little over half a second off the pace.
Sixth was Fernando Alonso but he too has a grid penalty to be taken this weekend that could open the door for McLaren to make inroads in the fight for fourth in the constructors’ championship. However, Lando Norris was down in 12th and Daniel Ricciardo could only manage 15th after he lost out on some running due to a brake issue.
Haas also had to do some running repairs after Mick Schumacher slowed with an apparent hydraulic concern and needed time in the garage before he could rejoin the session, while things were worse for Zhou Guanyu who managed just three laps due to what the team only described as a technical issue.
Alfa Romeo’s struggles could be good news for Aston Martin, with both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll in the top 10 and the team now just seven points adrift in the constructors’ standings.