Sebastian Vettel was quickest once again in practice for the United States Grand Prix

It looks like being an all Red Bull Racing shootout for pole position in this afternoon’s qualifying session for the United States Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel once again led a lockout of the top two positions in final practice at the Circuit of the Americas, edging out teammate Mark Webber to top spot by two-tenths of a second.

Mirroring the form shown in Friday’s second practice session, Vettel was the quickest in the field during the initial Hard-compound tyre running, a full four-tenths of a second clear of the second-fastest man, Romain Grosjean in the Lotus.

The German switched to the Medium ‘option’ compound in the final minutes of the session, performing a single qualifying-style run that moved him into top spot. He posted even quicker sector times on the following lap, but aborted the time under instruction from his race engineer, Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin.

Webber moved into second-fastest with a time 0.203s slower than his teammate, while Lewis Hamiton completed the top-three – evidently much more comfortable in his new Mercedes chassis, following a switch after his uncompetitive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showing.

Sauber’s ever-impressive Nico Hülkenberg claimed the fastest Ferrari-powered honours with a solid fourth-fastest effort, while Grosjean was fifth-quickest in the Lotus.

The McLarens showed rather improved pace – Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez were sixth and eighth-fastest respectively, sandwiching Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes – but the same could not be said of the Ferraris.

Fernando Alonso was eleventh-quickest, over a second adrift of Vettel’s best time, while Felipe Massa was six-tenths slower in 17th place on the timesheets. Heikki Kovalainen was another driver to have a quieter session, finishing up 13th quickest in his first weekend in Lotus colours.

The red cars’ lack of pace allowed others to shine, with Valtteri Bottas proving a surprise performer with the ninth-fastest time in his Williams; he beat Adrian Sutil’s Force India by one-thousandth of a second.

The tail end of the field saw the Caterhams once again comfortably ahead of fellow backmarkers Marussia, with Charles Pic leading the charge ahead of teammate Giedo van der Garde.

No doubt to the Marussia team’s great relief, major set-up changes saw both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton run much closer to the leading pace after a disastrous second practice session. Both drivers unlocked around six seconds of lap time, although they were still over four seconds adrift of Vettel’s leading pace.

2013 United States Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.733   14
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.936 + 0.203 20
3. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:37.064 + 0.331 22
4. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:37.272 + 0.539 20
5. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:37.345 + 0.612 20
6. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:37.534 + 0.801 18
7. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:37.578 + 0.845 24
8. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:37.583 + 0.850 19
9. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.747 + 1.014 17
10. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:37.748 + 1.015 21
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:37.763 + 1.030 16
12. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:37.774 + 1.041 18
13. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:37.879 + 1.146 21
14. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:38.022 + 1.289 16
15. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.109 + 1.376 23
16. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:38.275 + 1.542 22
17. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:38.408 + 1.675 17
18. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.636 + 1.903 21
19. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:39.578 + 2.845 19
20. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:40.056 + 3.323 21
21. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:40.825 + 4.092 21
22. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:41.293 + 4.560 18

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.