Hamilton fastest in US Grand Prix practice

Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton was fastest in Friday’s practice sessions as he seeks a possible title-clinching victory at the United States Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was 0.593 seconds quicker than Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in the first session, and continued to dominate in the afternoon, finishing almost four-tenths of a second up on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Vettel, who spun into the gravel bed during the second session, was third quickest ahead of Valterri Bottas in a Mercedes.

Hamilton has a 59-point lead over Vettel in the drivers’ standings and could clinch a fourth world title in Sunday’s race at a circuit at which he was won four of the last five grands prix.

Verstappen, who earlier signed a new three-year contract with his team, was closest to matching Hamilton, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

In a series of grid penalties for engine changes, Toro Rosso debutant Brendon Hartley — New Zealand’s first F1 driver in almost three decades — was penalised 25 places, Renault’s Nico Huelkenberg 20 places and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne 10 places.

Hamilton would clinch this year’s title if he wins on Sunday and Vettel finishes outside the top five, with three racesthen remaining.

The Briton would also capture the title if he is second, Bottas does not win and Vettel finishes outside the top eight.

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