Lewis Hamilton raised the prospect of challenging Max Verstappen for pole position at the United States Grand Prix after he finished third in practice.
Hamilton trailed Verstappen by 0.281 seconds in the sole running before qualifying later on Friday with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc splitting the rivals.
But the seven-time world champion, in his upgraded Mercedes, clocked the fastest first and second sectors before hitting traffic in the final part of his speediest lap at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
Verstappen claimed his third world title in as many years at the previous round in Qatar.
But Hamilton’s early pace at a track where he has enjoyed so much success over the years suggests he might be able to give the Dutchman a run for his money in qualifying for Sunday’s 56-lap race.
Leclerc could also be a contender in the Lone Star State after he finished just 0.156 sec behind Verstappen.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took fourth spot, three tenths back, a place ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen with George Russell sixth for Mercedes.
Oscar Piastri survived a hairy moment when he temporarily lost control of his McLaren through Turn 8.
The Australian rookie, who won the sprint race in Lusail a fortnight ago, looked destined for the barriers after he ran on to the grass at high speed.
Piastri wiggled one way to the next but managed to catch his out-of-control machine to avoid a big shunt. He sustained minor damage to the floor of his McLaren in the accident and finished only 19th.
Lance Stroll was rooted to the foot of the time charts after he completed just five laps following a brake failure on his Aston Martin.
Qualifying takes place at 4pm local time (10pm BST).