Red Bull’s Max Verstappen kept Mercedes off the top of the timesheets in final practice for the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton second fastest and championship leader Nico Rosberg fourth.
Verstappen, who retired from the race in Texas last weekend with a gearbox problem, lapped the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit with a best time of one minute 19.137 seconds on a sunny morning with blue skies.
Triple champion Hamilton, who is 26 points adrift of Mercedes team mate Rosberg with three races remaining, was a mere 0.094 slower but could blame traffic for denying him the top spot.
The Briton has been faster than Rosberg, who can take the title on Sunday if he wins and Hamilton finishes 10th or lower, in every session, with qualifying to follow.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen’s team mate, was sandwiched between the two Mercedes title rivals with Williams’s Valtteri Bottas fifth and ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel had been fastest in Friday practice, when organisers said 91,243 spectators — more than on some race Sundays elsewhere — turned up to watch.
Home favourite Sergio Perez was 11th for Force India.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the picture is today. The tyres are very sensitive,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner said before practice started.
“Ferrari looked very competitive on the short runs yesterday but on the long runs it was different. Mercedes turn the engines down a bit on Friday, let’s see what happens when they turn them up this afternoon.”