Up until the final minutes it appeared as if McLaren would turn the tables on Red Bull after Vettel and Mark Webber formed a one-two on Friday as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button led the way at the top of the timesheet.
Vettel, however, had other ideas as he conjured the fastest lap yet at the Circuit of The Americas as the United States makes its Formula One return this weekend after a five-year absence.
On the occasion of his 100th grand prix, on current evidence Vettel appears poised for another pole position as he initially opened up a full-second gap with a lap time of one minute 36.490secs.
Grid penalty for Grosjean
Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean will serve a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas. The Lotus driver suffered a gearbox issue in final practice which has necessitated a change ahead of qualifying, so incurring a penalty. It could mean Grosjean starting towards the rear of the field.