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Auto blogMon, 13 Oct 2014 12:43:00 EST
The Sochi International Street Circuit used to host the Russian Formula One Grand Prix has a few things in common with the Valencia Street Circuit that was used to host the European Grand Prix. Both are built among existing infrastructure used for other events, both contain long, narrow stretches run between concrete walls and chain link fencing, and both are, shall we say, not exactly exciting.
We wouldn't know that after qualifying, though, when Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes AMG Petronas finally put in a mistake-free Saturday to line up first on the grid, ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg in second. Valtteri Bottas got his Williams closer than anyone expected, blistering the first two sectors but falling apart in the third and ending up third on the grid. Behind him, Jenson Button impressed in the McLaren in fourth, Daniil Kvyat even more impressive in the Toro Rosso, taking fifth in front of his home crowd. Kevin Magnussen put the second McLaren in sixth, Daniel Ricciardo was the first Infiniti Red Bull Racing in seventh ahead of a Ferrari duo who knew they'd have a hard time, Fernando Alonso in eighth and Kimi Räikkönen in ninth. Jean-Eric Vergne made sure to keep himself in the news with tenth position.
When the lights went out, the most exciting events of the entire race happened in just sixty meters of the braking zone going into Turn 2.
The Singapore Formula One Grand Prix is the Monaco GP of the Orient - a weekend known more for its glamour and time-slot than on-track action, with a temporary circuit that punishes every mistake, usually terminally.
Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas got the best of Free Practice 1, opening the curtain on a possible resurgence of Silver Arrows performance. By the time qualifying was done, though, it was his teammate Nico Rosberg who lined up second on the grid, followed by Romain Grosjean with a beautiful performance in the Lotus, Mark Webber in the Infiniti Red Bull, and Hamilton all the way back in fifth. Behind them were Felipe Massa outqualifying Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button getting the McLaren into eighth, Daniel Ricciardo with another good Q3 effort to get into ninth, and the shocker of Esteban Gutiérrez getting his Sauber into the top ten for the first time this year.
At the front of the pack was Sebastian Vettel. Again. But he was only ahead of Rosberg by a single tenth of a second...
Though his irreverent demeanor party-goer image might suggest otherwise, make no mistake about it: at 34 years old (and with 37-year-old Mark Webber out of the race), Kimi Raikkonen is the oldest driver in Formula One. He's three months older than Jenson Button, a good year older than his former wingman Felipe Massa, three years ahead of Adrian Sutil and a good decade beyond the latest crop of up-and-comers on the grid. So it's only natural that we should start wondering how much longer he'll stick around, and now we may have our answer.
Speaking with motorsport journalists at the British Grand Prix this past weekend, the 2007 World Champion and winner of 20 grands prix, Raikkonen indicated that the next season will likely be his last. According to numerous racing news outlets, when asked how long he plans to stay on the grid, the famously terse Finn responded: "Until my contract is finished, and then I will probably stop. That is what I think is going to happen."
Kimi was a relatively unknown entity when Sauber gave him his first drive in F1 back in 2001, upon which he finished in the points on his first race. He moved to McLaren the following season, racked his first podium finishes, and took his first win the season after that. He finishes second behind Fernando Alonso the next season, well ahead of the rest of the pack, and switched to Ferrari two seasons later in 2007, winning the world championship on his first season in red. After just three seasons, Ferrari showed him the door and Kimi left F1 entirely, trying his hand at everything from the World Rally Championship to NASCAR. He returned to F1 with Lotus in 2012, and in a rare move for Maranello, was invited back for this season on a two-year contract.