• United States Grand Prix - FP3

Vettel tops times again, but Hamilton gets closer

ESPN Staff
November 17, 2012
Sebastian Vettel has been fastest in every session so far © Sutton Images

Sebastian Vettel made it three out of three after topping final practice at the United States Grand Prix to add to his two dominant Friday practice performances.

Vettel's best time of 1:36.490 was 0.258s faster than Lewis Hamilton in second as Red Bull led the way again at the Circuit of the Americas. However, Hamilton was much closer than on Friday and Pastor Maldonado is also looking in contention for the front two rows of the grid after setting the third fastest time, 0.511s off Vettel.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest after visibly struggling to get heat into the medium compound tyres for his final run on the cool 16C track surface. He ended the session 0.690s off his championship rival's best time, but in with a shot at the second row of the grid in qualifying.

Overall the lap times dropped again from the drivers' efforts on Friday afternoon, but it took several laps to warm up the medium compound tyres before they offered their optimum performance. Nevertheless, overall grip levels remained low and several drivers made errors, especially in the final sector, as they attempted to lower their times. Qualifying should see some knife-edge driving.

Nico Rosberg was fifth fastest as Mercedes continued to show improved performance this weekend, and ahead of Felipe Massa's Ferrari and Mark Webber's Red Bull back in seventh. Sergio Perez was eighth fastest after clocking a lap within a second of Vettel, but also demonstrated the uglier side of his driving when he clouted Charles Pic into a spin at turn seven.

Perez was clearly quicker but inexplicably launched his Sauber up the inside of Pic's Marussia, resulting in inevitable contact at the apex. The Mexican, who has significant home support around the circuit, threw his hands in the air but was clearly the one to blame. After appearing in front of the stewards on Friday for weaving, his reprimand count could hit the magic three, resulting in a 10-place grid penalty, if the stewards take a dim view on his most recent stunt.

Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button rounded off the top ten after the McLaren driver failed to improve his time on the medium compound tyres. Further down the order the Lotuses continued to struggle in the cooler climes and Jean-Eric Vergne's session came to an early end after he broke his Toro Rosso's suspension by clouting a kerb.

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