Written by By Emma Monaghan
After racing to a dominant pole position on Friday in America’s version of Monaco, it was Hamilton’s turn to be under siege on Saturday when rivals turned up the heat to force an outcome.
In the end it was 20-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen who took the lead of the race, going fastest around the Circuit of the Americas before cruising to the top slot. Hamilton was second fastest and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third, when the fickle nature of this circuit finally dawned on them.
Hamilton remains the man in the box seat to win a third consecutive F1 world championship, but now the race comes down to a tight scrap for two seconds which will decide the championship.
The highlights of the final practice are as follows…
DRS +7.8 second: Alex Zanardi – Renault, 01:51:27. Tom Kristensen – Sauber, 02:00:18
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen dominate F1 practice
Seen The Legend Before….
How was Hamilton’s experience at his first Formula One race?
Converging on the Spa track in July 1993, I found myself on the first part of the Belgian Grand Prix “Fast Track”, in full safety gear in a suit soaked through, hands in my pockets and a face hung by a laminated badge that said “F1, Britain, Spa”, being transported to one of the motorsport’s most prestigious events.
From ‘Frencinha’ to French culinary toast
I did not know quite what to expect.
I’d only attended my first race in the UK in Manchester at the beginning of May, but had then flown to Austria to compete in the grand prix there. As my introduction to F1 had been with the FIA, I was always aware of the difference between pre-season testing and the pre-season tests held on road-tracks.
A fair bit had been written about the Brabham test at Spa in 1993, but not much by me then.
Nevertheless, I had this week been told by the organisers to fly in to join the team from the BBC commentary booth in the Belgian village of Englehart, and if I was going to gain an insight into the traditions of the sport, I wanted to get a feel for how the outfits actually looked in the vehicles.
My sense of awe upon walking on to the track was at a scale I had never imagined.
The open-sided hanger, with its straight glass exterior, was enveloped in the utter quiet of the vast aerodrome. I turned off the street-warning systems that said stay back. A wall of white panelling was a lonely reminder of when the track itself had been designed as the interchange for trains and traffic.
I was welcomed to the area by the team before being ushered into a test car, which was sitting adjacent to the team’s F1 drivers, Mika Hakkinen and Toto Wolff.
We spent an hour, taking pictures, getting acquainted and then trundling over to the drivers’ car. Hakkinen and Wolff, Dutchman Robin Frijns and Austrian Rene Aroca, all spoke to me. The Magnificent Seven were business in the middle of the park at Necker Island in 2010.
During that time, the team had been told that there were 3,000 additional seats on the grandstands, but those seats were gone at that point. I felt a sense of mournfulness, how much better the place would have been by the time the race had commenced.
This was my introduction to the grand prix racing, which I’d eventually crash and burn on my way out of F1.
Back home in Britain, I went from super-fan, to hopeless rascal, to apologetic interloper, before my 20th birthday.
Twelve years later, I am still feverishly attending F1 races and expecting to get there when it comes to Australia.
Riding through the streets of Monaco with the world’s fastest two drivers – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton – is not for the faint-hearted.
The vibe is electric but the environment as still intimidating.
Sometimes it is as if you are in a race car, standing among the gear sticks and looking down the track to see who will be selected