Before they were Ferrari teammates and now part of Formula One’s “old guard” in 2014, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were 21 and 23-year-old “new kids on the block” in the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Alonso was in only his second Grand Prix for Renault, after his rookie season at Minardi in 2001 and then sitting out a season to work as Renault’s test driver. But he put together a blinding lap to score his first career pole on Saturday.
Raikkonen, meanwhile, was in his second season at McLaren-Mercedes, and though he’d shown flashes of brilliance he’d not yet been able to secure a victory.
Raikkonen emerged ahead of Alonso after the first pit stop sequence and Rubens Barrichello, then-Ferrari number two, got ahead at the second sequence.
When all was said and done Raikkonen had captured his first career victory, with Alonso also standing on the podium for the first time.
These two and Jenson Button are the only three drivers from that Grand Prix still on the grid in 2014.
The race also marked a first for NBC Sports Group’s F1 lead announcer Leigh Diffey, as it was his first Grand Prix he commentated on in the U.S., substituting for Rick DeBruhl on the old SPEED Channel.
Diffey, who missed calling the 2013 Malaysian GP as it conflicted with the IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg, will be back on the mic for this year’s race. Coverage times on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will be confirmed later this week.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.