Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to fastest time in final practice in Mexico
Mexican Grand Prix - Free Prictice 3

Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to fastest time in final practice in Mexico

Max Verstappen kept Red Bull at the top of the timesheets in final practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, edging Lewis Hamilton to the fastest lap by 0.075s.

Verstappen's best effort of 1:17.113 is a new track record, but featured a big lock up in the final sector as he tackled the hairpin in the stadium section. He made the same mistake on both his flying laps in FP3, sacrificing a couple of tenths of a second as he sailed wide of the apex.

Hamilton's best lap was also far from perfect after power drop outs on his first attempts meant he had to wait until his seventh lap on the ultra-soft tyres to set a competitive time. The smooth track surface and low levels of tyre degradation at the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez means drivers can complete several hot laps on one set of tyres and Hamilton's time was just 0.075s off Verstappen despite being set on rubber a few laps older.

Sebastian Vettel was third fastest for Ferrari with a time 0.117s off Verstappen. To stop Hamilton securing the title this weekend, Vettel needs to win the race and hope the Mercedes driver finishes sixth or lower, but on the basis of practice he faces a tough challenge. His best lap of 1:17.230 was only 0.053s faster than Valtteri Bottas in fourth, meaning the difference between pole position and a fourth-place start could be defined by less than 0.2s in qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo, who set the fastest time on Friday, struggled to fifth place in the second Red Bull. He lost the majority of his 0.248s gap to teammate Verstappen in the first sector, suggesting he may have made a mistake under braking for Turn 1 -- although it was not caught on the world feed. After completing his fast lap he returned to the pits for the rest of the session, while others continued to lap on their used ultra-soft tyres, meaning the team may have detected a problem on his car or felt the need to start work early on a setup change ahead of qualifying.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top six with a time over half a second off Verstappen before another half-second gap to the fastest Force India of Sergio Perez. A tight battle is brewing between Force India and Renault this weekend for positions seven to ten, with Perez in seventh and Carlos Sainz in ninth split by just 0.168s. Nico Hulkenberg appeared to make a mistake in sector one in the second Renault, leaving him 0.340s off Perez in tenth, but he will hope to be closer to the Force Indias in qualifying.

Brendon Hartley was 11th fastest as he continues to make progress in just his second F1 race with Toro Rosso. He beat the two Williams of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll in 12th and 13th, with Kevin Magnussen 14th after being declared fit enough to participate on Saturday morning following a stomach bug on Friday. Marcus Ericsson hauled his Sauber up to 15th place ahead of Fernando Alonso, who faces a 20-place penalty from wherever he qualifies. Romain Grosjean was 17th ahead of the second Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein and the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, which also faces a grid penalty.

Pierre Gasly completed just one lap in the Toro Rosso before stopping on track in the stadium section with an engine issue.

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