2014 U.S. GP Practice Three: Hat-trick for Hamilton as he moves clear of Rosberg
Lewis eight tenths clear of Rosberg, who suffers brake glazing; Both Mercedes drivers make errors at Turn 12, with Hamilton spinning; Vettel focuses on race strategy ahead of pitlane start
By James Galloway in Austin
Last Updated: 03/11/14 6:16pm
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton made it a hat-trick of fastest times to underline his status as pole favourite in Austin as title rival Nico Rosberg experienced a difficult Practice Three.
On a bright but chilly morning in the Texan capital, Mercedes’ duelling drivers once more finished first and second on the Circuit of the Americas timesheet but on this occasion Hamilton’s advantage over team-mate Rosberg, which was a miniscule 0.003 seconds at the end of Friday, grew to a rather more commanding 0.883s on the soft-tyre qualifying simulations.
Rosberg’s runs on the medium tyre, in which the German failed to register a representative time, had been compromised by a glazed left-rear brake disc and when he did put the quicker soft tyres on his warm-up lap was compromised by traffic.
But while the gap between the two Mercedes' is therefore likely to close come the pole shootout in qualifying, Hamilton, the 17-point championship leader, is once more looking in commanding form. Saying that, the Briton's morning wasn't completely plain sailing as he spun under braking at Turn 12 having just changed a setting on his W05’s steering wheel.
What appears to be in little doubt is that newly-crowned Constructors' Champions Mercedes will lock out the front-row for the tenth time this season come Q3 with the team's one-second advantage over the field from Friday remaining in tact.
There was a change in the pecking order behind though, with Williams coming to the fore on Saturday morning with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in third and fourth respectively.
Fernando Alonso was fifth for Ferrari, albeit a massive 1.6 seconds back on the lead Mercedes, with pacesetter on the medium tyres Daniel Ricciardo slipping to sixth on the softs after a mistake on the penultimate corner.
The Australian will lead Red Bull's challenge in qualifying given penalised team-mate Sebastian Vettel is set to complete only a handful of perfunctory laps at best in Q1 given it has already been confirmed he will start Sunday's race from the pitlane owing to a change to a sixth power unit of 2014.
With his qualifying fate already sealed, Vettel therefore used P3 as an extension of his race simulations from Friday afternoon, the German only running on the harder medium tyres and with a skinny rear-wing on his RB10 - the kind of low-downforce setting that will aid the World Champion's chances of coming through the field on Sunday.
With Vettel running on heavy fuel throughout, P3's top ten was completed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber's Adrian Sutil, the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's Jenson Button.