With both drivers building up for a fast lap, Verstappen passed Hamilton at Turn 15, before the seven-time world champion returned the favour by diving down the inside of Verstappen’s Red Bull at the final corner. 

The championship protagonists continued to race each other side by side along COTA’s entire main straight and into Turn 1 as they had their first on-track scrap of the weekend in Austin.

Hamilton held onto the position under braking for the first corner in a move that annoyed Verstappen, who leads the world championship by six points coming into the first US GP in two years. 

“Ha! Stupid idiot,” Verstappen said over team radio, before his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told him: “Ignore it, don’t worry about it.” 

Verstappen proceeded to raise his middle finger in the direction of Hamilton as the Mercedes driver accelerated out of the corner and into the distance.

“We are all lining up to go for our laps, so I don’t really understand what happened there,” Verstappen said of the incident after the session. 

It was a frustrating afternoon all round for Verstappen, who failed to set a representative time and ended up eighth-fastest after hitting traffic on both his attempted flying laps, before aborting his soft-tyre run altogether. 

“It didn’t particularly feel bad in the short run, it was just a mess with the traffic,” Verstappen explained. 

“On the soft tyres, didn’t get the lap. Overall it’s not easy out there, the track is quite bumpy, and also to find the right compromise with the car hasn’t been the easiest so far. 

“There are a few positive things to look at and we will continue to look at it also overnight.”