World champion Lewis Hamilton set a perfectly-timed lap in a weather-affected free practice session at the Circuit of the Americas, which could be used to set the grid if qualifying doesn’t happen this afternoon or tomorrow morning.
Dreadful weather conditions have blighted the United States Grand Prix weekend. The rain hadn't really abated since it started in the early hours of the morning, with varying levels of intensity from thunderstorm to incessant drizzle.
As the session went green, the rainfall was as light as it had been all day. Air temperature was a lowly 19C, with track temp down at 21C.
If qualifying can't be held before the race tomorrow, Hamilton would start ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg's Force India and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. Nico Rosberg was only ninth fastest in this session, after going off on his first flying lap.
Hamilton was 0.863s clear of the field, with fourth-placed Bottas over a second off his pace.
Story of the session
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was the guinea pig as the session began, while teammate Daniil Kvyat reported: "A lot of water, but not so bad."
Ricciardo set the first time of the day, a 2m12.758s, with Lotus's Pastor Maldonado going fastest on 2m06.442s.
Kvyat then went P1 on 2m04.442s, as Lewis Hamilton was the first to go off track following a big slide at Turn 17, quickly followed by Nico Rosberg, who took a trip into the gravel at Turn 3. Rosberg hit the wall with the nose of the car after losing control due to running over the kerb.
Rosberg briefly went off again at Turn 7 as he returned to the pits with his broken front wing.
Hamilton went fastest on 2m02.561s, ahead of Bottas and Vettel. Vettel took P1 soon after on 2m01.441s, with Ferrari teammate Raikkonen going P2 on 2m02.150s, and Bottas beating Hamilton for third.
Vettel improved his fastest time to 2m00.380, with Raikkonen doing a 2m00.785s, just as Vettel reported that the rain was intensifying. Raikkonen proved that with a big moment through Turn 4/5, and complained of "aquaplaning in the first sector".
Nico Hulkenberg went P3 in his Force India on 2m01.503s before going off at the exit of Turn 2 on his next tour. Hamilton also had a moment here.
Hulkenberg improved to 2m00.949s but stayed third, ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.
Bottas jumped back to third on 2m00.901s.
Rosberg rejoined the session after 22 minutes with a new front wing, and went fifth on his first flying lap on 2m01.474s.
Hulkenberg went P2 on 2m00.496s, and Bottas took P3 on 2m00.523s.
Hamilton rises to the top
On his second run just on the half-hour mark, Hamilton surged to the top of the times on his first flying lap of 1m59.517s, the first – and only – sub-2m lap.
Hamilton's lap was perfectly timed as the rain then intensified again. In contrast, Rosberg went for his second run when conditions were at their worst and came straight back to the pits.
Vettel went off at Turn 4-5 and then "soft of aquaplaned off at Turn 18". He spun on his next lap at Turn 9, and had to reverse away from the crest of the hill before rejoining. "Conditions are getting quite bad, I keep spinning," he complained.
He stayed second, ahead of Hulkenberg, Bottas, Sainz, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Rosberg.
Massa rounded out the top 10, ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez, the Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, and McLaren's Fernando Alonso.
Marcus Ericsson was 15th for Sauber, ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren, the Manors of Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi. Felipe Nasr and Max Verstappen rounded out the field.
Plenty of wet-weather moments
As expected, there were plenty of other off-track excursions: Perez ran wide through Turn 2 and Turn 4 during the session, while Verstappen spun at Turn 17 and then suffered another moment at Turn 12 and overshoot the corner completely.
Maldonado half-spun at Turn 17, and Nasr ran wide at Turn 2 after a huge slide.
|3||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||2:00.496||+0.979||12|
|5||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||2:00.687||+1.170||11|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||2:00.694||+1.177||12|
|8||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||2:01.008||+1.491||12|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||2:02.660||+3.143||12|
|12||Romain Grosjean||Team Lotus||2:02.825||+3.308||10|
|13||Pastor Maldonado||Team Lotus||2:02.921||+3.404||11|
|20||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||2:09.994||+10.477||7|