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Lewis Hamilton has emerged quickest in a potentially critical third free practice session for the United States Grand Prix, which went ahead despite stormy conditions forcing the circuit to be closed to fans.

As expected, heavy rain overnight has caused disruption in and around the area, with severe flash floods being warned across the Texas state until Sunday morning.

With Austin authorities advising locals to stay indoors as the storms sweep across the area and roads proving water-logged en route to the circuit, the decision was subsequently taken by COTA officials to close the gates to spectators until 12.00 local time for safety reasons, with those already present invited to seek shelter indoors.

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Despite taking place 'behind closed doors', FIA determined the session safe enough to begin on time at 10.00am, a potentially crucial decision should today's qualifying be cancelled as expected. Indeed, with weather forecast to worsen again this afternoon and no guarantee it can be run on Sunday instead, the FIA will likely call on the FP3 order to determine the grid instead.

Should this occur, Hamilton will potentially start from pole position, the champion-elect pumping in a lap of 1min 59.517secs just before he declared the circuit too wet to drive and peeled it the pit lane to sit out the remainder with 25mins to go.

Despite two spins on the same lap, Sebastian Vettel was second fastest in the Ferrari, though his starting position regardless will be compromised by having to take a ten place grid penalty for an engine change.

As such, Nico Hulkenberg would provisionally get away from the front row in the Force India, the German and Valtteri Bottas proving two of the busier drivers on circuit en route to third and fourth best.

Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat followed up in fifth and sixth, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen - who also faces a grid penalty -, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg.

Unsurprisingly, the session would prove testing for the drivers as they found the limit of their cars in the terrible conditions, though incidents were largely limited to running wide - particularly at the fast turn 18 - a the odd spin, most notably for Rosberg, who slid off at turn three and kissed the barrier to damage his front wing.

Should FP3 indeed determine the grid for the race, Max Verstappen will find himself battling through the field again as he suffered more than one off track moment to prove slowest in 20th and last.