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U.S. Grand Prix strategy guide

22 October 2018

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.

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari qualified at second position with a time of 1:32.298 minutes while his team mate Kimi Raikkonen took the third position with a time of 1:32.307 minutes.

Esteban Ocon of Force India and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull were given three-place penalties for speeding under red flags at the Japanese and Australian Grands Prix respectively.

Hamilton will win his fifth title if he scores nine points in the race.

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Yet Hamilton says he is not focusing on title celebrations just yet and is instead expecting Vettel to come out fighting at the Circuit of Americas in Austin. "In FP1 I only did a few laps because we need the tires to last until FP3 and there's very little to learn in the rain".

Vettel criticized the penalty when it was assessed on Friday, but he refused to rehash his frustration after qualifying. The tyres were going off at the end but we had enough speed and kept it consistent and just tried to keep the tyres alive to the end.

"Today has been surprisingly close, I don't think we expected it to be that close", commented Vettel, who vented his frustration over the team radio after crossing the line. "That second one I was able to capitalise".

The stewards' decision, made in wet conditions, had reduced Vettel's slim title chances according to Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and means that he can not start on the front row of the grid for a race in which he knows another Mercedes one-two will give Hamilton his fifth drivers' title.

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It took him until Lap 51 to get within one second of Verstappen and gain DRS, but the Dutchman was likewise closely tailing Raikkonen in the lead, neutralizing the advantage.

Hamilton's 18-second lead was gradually eroded by Raikkonen and as the Mercedes' ageing softs worsened, third-place man Verstappen and Bottas comfortably got inside Hamilton's pitstop window.

Hamilton needs to beat fellow-four-time champion Vettel by eight points to clinch his fifth drivers championship.

A late pit change while leading the race denied Hamilton a 10th victory of the year as he had to settle for third place at the USA Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

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U.S. Grand Prix strategy guide