Robert Hight stormed to victory over father-in-law and boss John Force in Sunday's finals of the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

UPDATED: Hight (FC), Kalitta (TF), Johnson (PS) and Johnson (PSM) storm to wins in NHRA Gatornationals

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It’s a good thing tomorrow isn’t Christmas because John Force might not give son-in-law and John Force Racing president Robert Hight a present.

After all, Hight got a bigger present Sunday, beating his boss and father-in-law in the Funny Car finals of the 45th Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals Sunday in Gainesville, Fla.

Hight beat Force, who had qualified last in the 16-car field, to the finish line with a performance of 4.074 seconds at 314.46 mph.

“If you’d have told me this morning that John and I would be in the final, I don’t know if I’d have taken that bet,” Hight said. “Our teams have worked really hard and work well together, but we were struggling.

“Fortunately for me, the Auto Club team did a good job. I wasn’t on my game in the first round or the semis. Luckily, I had a great race car.”

Force lost traction shortly after the starting line, shutting his motor down and coasting to a 6.435 seconds/118.29 mph finish.

The win evens the all-time elimination round record between Force and Hight at 15-15 overall and 2-2 in final rounds.

Hight has now won 30 times in 47 final round appearances. It was also his second win at Gainesville, having also done so in the 2012 event.

In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta defeated Antron Brown.

Kalitta turned in a performance of 3.830 seconds at 323.74 mph, compared to Brown’s 5.106 seconds/147.50 mph showing.

“We’ve been trying to get a win all year, and we’ve been right on the cusp,” Kalitta said. “We have great support amongst all four of our teams. It’s great that they can all get in there and celebrate on the starting line.”

Kalitta and Brown are now 1-1 against each other in final round appearances, but Brown still holds an 18-13 overall elimination round record vs. Kalitta, who earned his 34th national event win and third Gatornationals triumph.

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson stormed to his second straight Gatornationals win, besting Erica Enders-Stevens.

Johnson recorded a time of 6.566 seconds at 211.73 mph, to Enders-Stevens’ showing of 6.551 seconds at 211.96 mph.

Johnson and Jeg Coughlin were the first Pro Stock drivers to debut a new Hemi-powered 2014 Dodge Dart this weekend, replacing the Dodge Avenger, which both drove the last three seasons. It obviously passed its first test for Johnson.

“This shows what a great job the Mopar engineers and SRT did when they developed the new Dart,” Johnson said. “It’s also a testament to our crew. For the last two weeks they’ve worked non-stop, without a day off to make sure this transition was a success.”

With his 22nd national event win, Johnson is now 3-2 in final round battles and 12-7 in overall elimination round finishes against Enders-Stevens.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, veteran rider Steve Johnson, who finished runner-up in last year’s Gatornationals, rallied back in this year’s event to defeat Scotty Pollacheck.

Johnson turned in a performance of 6.912 seconds at 191.32 mph, to Pollacheck’s effort of 7.093 seconds at 190.81 mph. It was the first win by a Suzuki rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle since 2011.

“Last year, I got to the final here and lost to Hector Arana Jr., and I felt like I should have won it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been close a few times, but we finally broke through.”

The win evens the career record between the two riders at 3-3, but it was the first time they had ever met in a final round.

It was also the sixth national event win in Johnson’s career, and his second win at Gainesville (the other time was back in 2005).

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

Final finish order (1-16) at the 45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.  The race is the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL:

1.  Doug Kalitta; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Morgan Lucas; 4.  Steve Torrence; 5.  David Grubnic; 6. Spencer Massey; 7.  Tony Schumacher; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  Richie Crampton; 10.  Brittany Force; 11. Khalid alBalooshi; 12.  Leah Pritchett; 13.  Shawn Langdon; 14.  Bob Vandergriff; 15.  Sidnei Frigo; 16.  Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR:

1.  Robert Hight; 2.  John Force; 3.  Courtney Force; 4.  Ron Capps; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Tim Wilkerson; 7.  Jack Beckman; 8.  Bob Tasca III; 9.  Cruz Pedregon; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  Blake Alexander; 14.  Matt Hagan; 15.  Jeff Arend; 16.  Chad Head.

PRO STOCK:

1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 3.  Vincent Nobile; 4.  Dave Connolly; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  V. Gaines; 7.  Jeg Coughlin; 8.  Shane Gray; 9.  Chris McGaha; 10.  Jonathan Gray; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Steve Kent; 13.  Matt Hartford; 14.  Robert Patrick; 15.  Jimmy Alund; 16.  Larry Morgan.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

1.  Steve Johnson; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck; 3.  John Hall; 4.  Hector Arana Jr; 5.  Matt Smith; 6. Michael Ray; 7.  Eddie Krawiec; 8.  Andrew Hines; 9.  Shawn Gann; 10.  Katie Sullivan; 11.  Chaz Kennedy; 12.  Adam Arana; 13.  Jim Underdahl; 14.  Jerry Savoie; 15.  Fredrik Fredlund; 16.  Hector Arana.

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FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Doug Kalitta, 3.830 seconds, 323.74 mph  def. Antron Brown, 5.106 seconds, 147.50 mph.

Funny Car — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 314.46  def. John Force, Mustang, 6.435, 118.29.

Pro Stock — Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.566, 211.73  def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.551, 211.96.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.912, 191.32  def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.093, 190.81.

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SUNDAY’S ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL:
ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.820, 320.36 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.855, 318.24; Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 324.67 def. Brittany Force, 3.825, 321.58; Morgan Lucas, 3.846, 321.50 def. Richie Crampton, foul; J.R. Todd, 3.801, 325.30 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.296, 306.67; Antron Brown, 3.830, 319.14 def. Sidnei Frigo, 8.088, 88.66; David Grubnic, 3.935, 273.50 def. Clay Millican, 9.530, 78.21; Spencer Massey, 3.876, 317.64 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.561, 169.17; Steve Torrence, 3.790, 325.69 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.833, 320.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Lucas, 3.841, 316.82 def. Massey, 3.933, 314.31; Brown, 3.810, 321.42 def. Schumacher, 5.798, 124.20; Kalitta, 3.829, 321.12 def. Grubnic, 3.800, 316.30; Torrence, 3.856, 312.93 def. Todd, 9.377, 83.54;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.856, 319.52 def. Torrence, 7.663, 88.07; Brown, 3.847, 315.71 def. Lucas, 5.410, 132.18; FINAL — Kalitta, 3.830, 323.74 def. Brown, 5.106, 147.50.

FUNNY CAR:
ROUND ONE — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.075, 317.12 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.102, 305.63; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.080, 307.51 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, foul; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.140, 308.14 def. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.251, 296.24; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.135, 307.37 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.893, 163.16; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.102, 315.56 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.307, 226.92; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.132, 308.14 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.561, 194.07; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.061, 314.02 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.199, 271.95; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.117, 308.92 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.157, 303.78.

QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 4.140, 310.27 def. Wilkerson, 5.622, 137.67; Capps, 4.136, 307.16 def. Beckman, 5.844, 121.34; Hight, 4.140, 306.05 def. Tasca III, 6.262, 111.01; J. Force, 4.134, 303.84 def. Worsham, 4.599, 232.35.

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 4.168, 301.20 def. Capps, 7.663, 89.63; J. Force, 4.240, 266.42 def. C. Force, 6.090, 112.74.

FINAL — Hight, 4.074, 314.46 def. J. Force, 6.435, 118.29.

PRO STOCK:
ROUND ONE — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.567, 211.30 def. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, foul; V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.571, 211.56 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, foul; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.571, 210.08 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.566, 211.53; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.582, 210.11 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.609, 210.47; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.559, 211.83 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.593, 209.98; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.552, 211.03 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.649, 208.84; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.541, 211.93 def. Robert Patrick, Mustang, 6.667, 207.27; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.550, 211.89 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.599, 210.93.

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 7.414, 149.88 def. S. Gray, 13.901, 60.96; Connolly, 6.584, 210.87 def. Line, 6.568, 211.39; Nobile, 6.580, 210.60 def. Coughlin, 6.591, 211.69; Enders-Stevens, 6.535, 212.59 def. Gaines, 6.571, 211.79;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.569, 211.79 def. Connolly, 6.583, 211.20; Enders-Stevens, 6.569, 212.29 def. Nobile, 6.582, 211.16.

FINAL — Johnson, 6.566, 211.73 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.551, 211.96.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE — Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.923, 191.02 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 9.750, 86.95; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.931, 192.44 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, foul; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.907, 191.54 def. Fredrik Fredlund, Suzuki, 7.274, 184.19; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.905, 193.24 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.934, 192.47; John Hall, Buell, 6.878, 192.11 def. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.945, 186.38; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 193.96 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.943, 190.65; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.901, 195.31 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.880, 195.08 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, foul;

QUARTERFINALS — Pollacheck, 6.911, 193.02 def. Ray, 6.916, 192.41; Arana Jr, 6.915, 194.60 def. Krawiec, 6.935, 192.44; Hall, 6.900, 193.02 def. Hines, 6.944, 192.52; Johnson, 6.937, 193.60 def. Smith, foul;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.874, 195.48 def. Arana Jr, 6.906, 195.70; Pollacheck, 6.865, 195.00 def. Hall, 6.847, 195.42;

FINAL — Johnson, 6.912, 191.32 def. Pollacheck, 7.093, 190.81.

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STANDINGS

Point standings (top 10) following the 45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel
1.  Doug Kalitta, 309; 2.  Antron Brown, 256; 3.  Steve Torrence, 230; 4.  Khalid alBalooshi, 197; 5.  Spencer Massey, 180; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 168; 7.  Brittany Force, 158; 8.  Tony Schumacher, 146; 9.  David Grubnic, 138; 10.  Richie Crampton, 123.

Funny Car
1.  John Force, 316; 2.  Robert Hight, 273; 3.  (tie) Alexis DeJoria, 187; Del Worsham, 187; 5; Bob Tasca III, 184; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 168; 7.  Ron Capps, 164; 8.  Matt Hagan, 161; 9.  Jack Beckman, 151; 10.  Courtney Force, 146.

Pro Stock
1.  Allen Johnson, 282; 2.  V. Gaines, 244; 3.  Vincent Nobile, 235; 4.  Jason Line, 233; 5.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 226; 6.  Dave Connolly, 211; 7.  Shane Gray, 181; 8.  Jeg Coughlin, 148; 9.  Larry Morgan, 114; 10.  Chris McGaha, 107.

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1.  Steve Johnson, 114; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck, 93; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 81; 4.  John Hall, 75; 5. Michael Ray, 63; 6.  Andrew Hines, 62; 7.  Matt Smith, 60; 8.  Eddie Krawiec, 56; 9.  (tie) Hector Arana, 32; Adam Arana, 32; Shawn Gann, 32; Katie Sullivan, 32.

NHRA: Riding almost 200 mph is the Arana family business

Hector Arana Jr. is a chip off the old block when it comes to racing motorcycles in the NHRA.
(Photos courtesy Geiger Global Media and NHRA)
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Some men follow in their father’s footsteps.

Hector Arana Jr., however, followed in his father’s tire tracks.

That’s as a full-time competitor in the NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.

Hector Arana – Junior’s father – won the 2009 PSM championship and both have been consistent entrants in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, as well as racing down dragstrips from New Jersey to California at nearly 200 mph.

The senior Arana is in his eighth straight Countdown, while his son is in his sixth straight playoff. As the NHRA circuit moves into Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., this weekend for the Dodge Nationals, father and son are both looking to making some significant jump upward in the standings.

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Hector Arana Jr.
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Hector Arana

Hector Jr., 27, is seventh in the standings, 145 points behind points leader and defending series champion Andrew Hines. The younger Arana has finished in the top five in each of the last four Countdowns: fourth in both 2012 and 2013, third in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

The elder Arana, who turned 58 on Sept. 17, is right behind his son in the point standings, in eighth place, 153 points behind Hines.

Son leads father in overall wins on the two-wheel circuit, 11 to seven. But they’re also each other’s biggest cheerleaders and work on each other’s bikes to make them as quick and fast as they possibly can be.

Both are big fans of Maple Grove and are looking forward to returning there this weekend.

Hector Arana
Hector Arana

“It’s important for both of us to do well in the playoffs,” father Hector said in a media release. “I’m liking our chances. Both bikes are running well and we feel like we have the ability to win any of the races we enter.

“I’ve been around a long time, and I don’t think it’s ever been tougher than it is right now in this class, but that makes it more challenging and more satisfying when you do well. Hopefully this weekend is a big one for us.”

Not only does Hector Jr. get his racing genes from his father, he also shares in the Arana family patriarch’s optimism about this weekend.

“If weather conditions are just right, we could see national records this weekend,” said the younger Arana, who won at Reading in 2011. “We would really like to be in the mix to run those kinds of numbers. We have the power to do it; we just need to put it all together the right way.

“We’ve had a decent year and even got to the final round at Indy earlier this month but we want more. Reading would be a great place to win. I know I’d be happy to get it done.”

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IMSA Prototype title battle pits AXR teammates against each other

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype standings couldn’t be tighter heading into Saturday’s season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Dane Cameron and Eric Curran currently lead the standings in their No. 31 Whelen/Team Fox Corvette DP, holding a razor-thin 286 to 285 point lead over teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP.

“It will certainly be business as usual – that’s the best way to put it, for sure,” Cameron said in the team’s advance release. “We can’t afford to race any differently or be conservative.

“We need to be on attack to try to win the championship. We’re going to be putting it all on the line to try to get this championship. We’re taking on our teammates – the two-time defending champions – and you can’t leave any stone unturned.

“In the big picture, it’s a great accomplishment for the whole Action Express Racing organization to have both cars first and second in the points. That’s something to be really proud of, two great seasons from our race cars.”

Whichever team accumulates more points in Saturday’s race will be the 2016 Prototype champion. And besides the one-point difference, things have been tight in other ways, as well.

In the last IMSA race for Prototypes, Sept. 17 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Cameron and Curran finished second, with Barbosa and Fittipaldi right behind in third.

What’s more, prior to that the Action Express pairs have recorded three consecutive one-two finishes: Cameron/Curran and Barbosa/Fittipaldi finished 1-2 at both Road America (Aug. 7) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (July 10), while Barbosa/Fittipaldi finished 1-2 ahead of Cameron/Curran at Watkins Glen International (July 3).

“We had a great test in Atlanta,” said Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson.  “There were other Corvettes that we ran against so we were able to evaluate our cars against others that we’re going to be racing this weekend.

“We ran over 700 miles per car, over the two days, and we made a lot of long runs. We really feel a lot of confidence and we’re excited about the race coming up at Road Atlanta.”

As if things weren’t interesting enough, Cameron and Curran are pulling out all stops by adding brand new Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud to their team for the 10-hour endurance race.

Pagenaud raced with Cameron and Curran (and Johnny Adam) in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the team finishing sixth in class.

Pagenaud competed full-time in the American Le Mans Series from 2008 to 2010, earning eight wins in that period and the 2010 series title, before moving full-time to the IndyCar circuit.

In this race last year, Barbosa and Fittipaldi, along with another IndyCar driver, Sebastien Bourdais, captured the championship, while Cameron, Curran and Max Papis finished third.

Barbosa and Fittipaldi have their own ringer of sorts, Filipe Albuquerque, who was part of their team that wound up with respective fourth place finishes in each of the first two races of this season: Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“Doing Petit Le Mans with three drivers is almost the same as doing it with two drivers at the Glen, maybe a little bit longer,” Fittipaldi said. “It’s pretty straight forward and we won’t need to make any adjustments.

“In the series you have to be prepared no matter what, and ‘be on’ all the time.  We only have 10 races and it doesn’t matter if it’s Daytona or Sebring or Road Atlanta — you just have to be on it all the time.”

Added Barbosa, “Everything in the race really comes down to preparation in the shop. Our race cars are very strong and very reliable and we can push the car all the time for the whole 10 hours.

“This is going to be the last race for this Corvette Prototype, so hopefully we’ll be able to give it a last win and retire the car in the best possible way.”

Albuquerque this season has also earned two wins in the LMP2 class of the WEC (Six Hours of Silverstone and Six Hours of Mexico), along with two other runner-up finishes (Six Hours of Nurburgring and Circuit Of The Americas).

In addition to going for their overall Prototype championship, Barbosa/Fittipaldi are also in the hunt for their third consecutive Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup title, a four-race competition based upon overall outcomes at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

Barbosa/Fittipaldi have earned 35 points to lead the competition, with Cameron/Curran a close third with 29 points.

“Last year, we were in a pretty good championship battle with our teammates in the No. 5 car, as well as the Wayne Taylor car,” Curran said. “It really came down to the wire last year at Petit Le Mans, on basically who finished ahead of the others was going to win the championship – and we came really close.

“We ended up third last year, but only a few points behind our teammates. It’s even closer this year. We’re one point ahead, but anything can happen. All the guys on the team have been great. Our pit stops have been spot on, the performance of the car has been phenomenal and my teammate Dane Cameron has been top-notch.

“We’re closer to the championship than a year ago and it’s an amazing feeling to be so close.  The pressure is on now.  It would be huge for us to win a championship in the top class of the IMSA series.”

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Dragon Racing loses Vergne penalty appeal from London

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 2: In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01 during the London Formula E race on July 2, 2016 in Battersea Park, London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Ferraro/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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Dragon Racing’s appeal following Jean-Eric Vergne’s post-race time penalties at the season finale of the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship has been lost. Dragon was hoping to finish ahead of DS Virgin Racing for third in the team’s championship.

A decision was released today by the FIA International Court of Appeal, which heard the appeal on Friday, Sept. 16, which called the appeal “inadmissable.” Dragon appealed the penalties on July 6.

Vergne was assessed two post-race time penalties – 50 seconds for hitting 0 percent battery life on the final lap, and an additional second when leaving the pit lane. The first penalty dropped him from third on the road down to seventh, with an additional position lost on the second penalty.

Nonetheless, even though Dragon’s pair of Jerome d’Ambrosio and Loic Duval were promoted up to third and fourth in the London race at Battersea Park, Vergne was still classified eighth in the finale. That four-point net was enough to ensure DS Virgin finished one point ahead of Dragon for third place.

Vergne has since shifted from DS Virgin to Techeetah Formula E for season three. The new season kicks off Oct. 9 in Hong Kong.

Soft tire preference revealed in Japanese GP picks

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Suzuka, Japan.
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Formula 1’s two-week Asian swing is ahead with the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend and the Japanese Grand Prix next week.

The Japanese Grand Prix tire picks were revealed on Tuesday, per usual, and most drivers and teams have selected more of Pirelli’s sets of soft tires, the softest on offer. As in Malaysia, teams can select between the soft, medium and hard compounds.

All drivers have between six and nine sets of softs selected.

Both Red Bull drivers are opting for four sets of hards, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel three sets of hards and Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen two sets of hards.

The full breakdown is below:

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