AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest in final practice for the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday, a race that could hand the championship to his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton for a fifth time.
Hamilton was only third fastest but, with Vettel having a three place grid penalty for Sunday’s race that will drop him down to at least fourth even if he takes pole position, will not be troubled by that.
Vettel’s time of one minute 33.797 seconds came on a dry track after rain on Friday, with Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen sealing a Ferrari one-two in the final session before qualifying.
Hamilton’s best lap was a 1:33.870, 0.073 off the pace, with Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas fourth on the timesheets ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
The Mercedes driver will be champion at the Circuit of the Americas with three races to spare if he scores eight points more than Vettel.
The Briton, who has a 67 point advantage, has won six of the last seven races and is aiming for a fifth victory in a row. He has also won five out of six races held so far in Austin.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)