Hamilton fastest as U.S. fans shut out by rain

Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:37pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was quickest for Mercedes in a rainswept final U.S. Grand Prix practice session on Saturday that was held behind closed doors due to the weather conditions.

With flood warnings in force locally, organizers kept spectators out for safety reasons until after the session had finished.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) decided, however, that it was safe for the drivers to venture out and the session started on schedule despite the poor visibility and heavy spray.

With Friday's second practice entirely washed out, and qualifying looking uncertain with heavier rain forecast for later, the final session could prove crucial for Sunday's potentially title-deciding race.

While qualifying was still scheduled for 1400 local, it could also be held on Sunday if conditions are too bad on Saturday. Failing that, final practice positions will be used to determine the grid.

If so, Hamilton will be even more the favorite to take his third title on Sunday.

The Briton lapped with a best time of one minute 59.517 seconds, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel second fastest on 2:00.380. Nico Hulkenberg was third for Force India and Finland's Valtteri Bottas fourth for Williams.

Hamilton needs to scores nine points more than Vettel and two more than his own Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, who was only ninth fastest, to clinch the crown.   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - United States Grand Prix 2015 - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America - 23/10/15
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch Zwei