Lewis Hamilton has finished the final practice session for the United States Grand Prix eight-tenths of a second quicker than the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
The championship leader picked the perfect moment in the rain-affected session to post his lap time just over halfway through the session. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg put in a quick lap time once the rain had resumed and managed to slot into third place.
There was plenty of debate prior to the commencement of FP3 whether the session would go ahead, as the rain had continued to fall overnight, flooding the track with standing water. This left the circuit organisers at the Circuit of the Americas to make the call to delay the opening of the track to the public until midday due to safety. The problem with this decision was FP3 went ahead as scheduled and fans were unable to enter the circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to venture out on to the flooded track for Red Bull Racing, also setting the first timed lap of the session which was a 2:12.758.
Drivers were informed by the FIA that the full wet weather tyres must be used for the final practice session and the intermediate tyres would not be allowed.
Most of the field joined Ricciardo on track quickly, as the times set in FP3 could possibly be used for qualifying should the one-hour session not run due to weather. Once the cars started creating a dry line around the Circuit of the Americas the lap times started to tumble, with Vettel holding the top position for half of the session.
Kimi Raikkonen joined his team-mate at the top of the timesheets in second position, until he decided to end his run early due to the conditions of the track and dropped to seventh position.
Nico Rosberg was one of many drivers to slip and spin on the wet track, although was the only driver to receive damage as he slide off the track, into the gravel and put his front wing into the wall. The damage wasn’t major, but it did require the German to make a pitstop for a new front wing.
Although the final practice session lasted the entire hour, the rain fell heavier with 20 minutes left to run and drivers started to complain over team radio about the deteriorated track conditions, with Vettel demonstrating the lack of grip by spinning twice within the space of a few corners. The four-time world champion found himself rolling backward after his second spin, at which point the majority of the field returned to the garages.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas