Watch US GP qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 at 10pm
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 23/10/21 9:24pm
Sergio Perez topped the timesheets for an on-form Red Bull in United States GP final practice, as both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton saw their fastest times deleted for track limits ahead of a crucial Austin qualifying session.
Perez. who was also fastest in Practice Two on Friday, carried his quick pace into Saturday and posted his benchmark – a 1:34.701 that beat a similarly spritely Carlos Sainz by a tenth – before Verstappen and Hamilton came charging on their quick laps.
But while both of the championship rivals, whose Red Bull and Mercedes cars appear evenly matched, looked set to comfortably beat Perez, both fell foul of the track limit rules at the Circuit of the Americas.
Verstappen ran wide at Turn 19 before outpacing Perez by three tenths, while Hamilton then beat Perez by two tenths – only to see his time also deleted for a violation at Turn 9.
It means we are no closer to deciphering the pecking order ahead of what looks to be a cracker of a Saturday shootout, although Red Bull certainly seem to have made gains on Mercedes with some overnight setup changes.
A must-watch qualifying is live on Sky Sports F1 at 10pm, with build-up from 8.30pm.
Verstappen eventually finished third with Hamilton down in sixth.
Ferrari and McLaren meanwhile have shown flashes of their potential to join the fight at the front in qualifying.
Sainz was second in the Ferrari while McLaren’s Lando Norris finished fourth, ahead of the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who has a five-place grid penalty coming his way for an engine change.
Bottas is one of four drivers who will are taking penalties, with Fernando Alonso added to that list on Saturday after Alpine opted to change every component of his Renault Power Unit.