A duel between Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas at the Race of Champions in Sweden on Sunday has been thwarted at the eleventh hour.
The duo were scheduled to be among three current Formula 1 drivers, the other being Mick Schumacher, taking part on an ice track created on the frozen Baltic Sea, just 60 miles from the Arctic Circle.
But as final preparations were being made, it emerged Bottas, who was set to face Vettel in his opening content of the individual competition on Sunday, had withdrawn and been replaced by W Series driver Emma Kimilainen in the Finnish contingent.
Sunday’s individual Race of Champions provides the highlight of the weekend’s action, this being the first time the event has been held on ice since it was inaugurated in 1988.
It features a host of drivers from different varieties of motorsport disciplines, racing each other one against one on a knockout basis around a circuit in separate lanes.
A total of 18 drivers are taking part in the Race of Champions, with Schumacher having to get through a preliminary contest against double W Series champion Jamie Chadwick if he is to take his place in the round of 16.
IndyCar duo Colton Herta and Helio Castroneves meet in the other preliminary contest.
The Race Of Champions drivers seemed to enjoy their first day of practice on our snow and ice track! ☃️
— #ROCSweden (@RaceOfChampions) February 3, 2022
In the round of 16, Aston Martin’s Vettel had been drawn against Bottas, who has moved from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo for 2022.
But on Friday morning, it was revealed that Bottas had “other commitments” and would not be participating after all.
Former McLaren team-mates David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen are involved though, with their first races being against Tom Kristensen (nine-time Le Mans 24-Hour winner) and Jimmie Johnson (seven-time NASCAR Cup champion) respectively.
The drivers are also taking part in Saturday’s Nations Cup, which will see Coulthard and Hakkinen renew their rivalry of past decades as Finland and Great Britain have been paired together in the quarter-finals.
The action is being broadcast on TV, with Sky F1 showing live coverage for three hours on both Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 2pm GMT.
Race of Champions draws
Nations Cup, Saturday
Latin America v United States
Germany v eROC All Stars
Latin America or USA v Germany or eROC All Stars
Finland v Great Britain
Nordic v France
Sweden v Norway
Race of Champions, Sunday
Colton Herta v Helio Castroneves
Jamie Chadwick v Mick Schumacher
Round of 16
Herta or Castroneves v Chadwick or Schumacher
Sebastian Vettel v Emma Kimilainen
Jimmie Johnson v Mika Hakkinen
Tom Kristensen v David Coulthard
Benito Guerra v Oliver Solberg
Sebastian Loeb v Petter Solberg
Johan Kristoffersson v Timmy Hansen
Didier Auriol v Mattias Ekstrom