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Final practice - Hamilton closes the gap to Red Bull 16 Nov 2013

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to continue the impressive performance that he showed in FP2 Heikki Kovalainen's driver's eye view from onboard the Lotus as the Finn continues to impress after replacing his fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races Force India's Adrian Sutil's DRS deactivates and disrupts the airflow over his rear wing

Yes, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were fastest in the final practice session for the 2013 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, with the world champion two-tenths of a second ahead of the Australian. But a super lap from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton right at the end of the hour-long run gave some hope that they might face some opposition this weekend.

Vettel had dropped to fourth after setting the pace on Pirelli’s hard tyres, as others switched to the mediums, but on the white-banded tyres he redefined the ante with a lap of 1m 36.733s as Webber worked down to 1m 36.936s. Hamilton, who appeared to have struggled as Mercedes worked on race pace, then banged in 1m 37.064s literally as the flag fell, to jump up to third.

Prior to that, Nico Hulkenberg had yet again impressed for Sauber with 1m 37.272s which put him ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on 1m 37.345s. Right behind the Frenchman, a late improvement to 1m 37.534s put Jenson Button’s much more competitive McLaren into sixth place ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg on 1m 37.578s and Sergio Perez on 1m 37.583s in the second McLaren.

Behind them, the times were just as tight. Valtteri Bottas took his revised Williams to ninth on 1m 37.747s with Adrian Sutil’s Force India only a thousandth of a second away on 1m 37.748s. Fernando Alonso was right with them on 1m 37.763s for Ferrari and had Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez on his tail with 1m 37.774s. Heikki Kovalainen wasn’t quite as impressive as yesterday in the second Lotus, but was still in touch on 1m 37.879s. Three-tenths of a second difference to Grosjean meant eight places!

Pastor Maldonado led the rest, with 1m 38.022s in the second Williams ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso on 1m 38.109s, Paul di Resta’s Force India on 1m 38.275s, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari on 1m 38.408s and Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso on 1m 38.636s.

Charles Pic continued to head the rear gunners with 1m 39.578s in his Caterham; team mate Giedo van der Garde was next on 1m 40.056s, as Marussia had a much better day with Jules Bianchi on 1m 40.825s and Max Chilton on 1m 41.293s.

Just as a reminder, Button has a three-place grid penalty for passing under the red flag in FP1, while Pic is set for a five-place drop after a gearbox change this morning.

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