The 2013 Race of Champions has been cancelled, the organisers announced today. The ROC was scheduled to take place in Bangkok Thailand on December 14-15.
The following statement appeared on the Race of Champions website today:
“The Sports Authority of Thailand and the organisers of the 2013 Race Of Champions have announced that the event cannot take place as planned on December 14-15 due to the current political situation in Bangkok.
“Our thoughts are with the Thai people during this difficult period and we wish that a peaceful solution will soon be found. The Race Of Champions has been held all over the world for 25 consecutive years and we are currently looking at options of repeating the success of last year’s event in Bangkok on another date.
“Fans who have already purchased tickets for this year’s Race Of Champions should contact Thai Ticket Major or their ticketing agent for further information on refunds.”
The Race of Champions has become a major event on the motorsport calendar, pitting some of the best drivers in the world from various motorsport disciplines against each other in equal machinery. Among those scheduled to appear at the now-cancelled 2013 event were 7-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, former Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, 4-time Australian V8 supercar champion Jamie Whincup, recently crowned World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier and motorcycle racing legend Mick Doohan.
It’s not yet clear if it will be possible for the 2013 Race of Champions to be moved to a later date. Issues of politics and location aside, many of the drivers involved are already preparing for the start of their respective 2014 seasons, which limits their availability.
Kimi Raikkonen has undergone successful back surgery in Europe, according to his Lotus team. Raikkonen is missing the last two races of 2013 as a result of this surgery.
Lotus F1 Team released the following statement today:
“As planned, Kimi Räikkönen underwent back surgery yesterday at The University Hospital of Strasbourg. Lotus F1 Team is happy to report that the operation was totally successful, according to Professor Afshin Gangi.
“Kimi will now rest for a few days and he will start his recovery process as early as next week. Everyone at the track and at Enstone wishes him a quick recovery.”
Raikkonen is out for the rest of the 2013 season, and will return to Formula One action for pre-season testing at the beginning of 2014, when he re-joins Ferrari. For the rest of 2013, Raikkonen’s Lotus is being driven by Heikki Kovalainen.
Heikki Kovalainen will fill in for fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of 2013, the team confirmed today in a statement on the Lotus F1 Team website.
Kovalainen has been released from his contract with Caterham for the remainder of the season so that he can compete for Lotus. He had been assisting with the development of this year’s Caterham car by taking part in Friday practice sessions for the team.
When Raikkonen announced last week that he would not be available for the final two races of the season, Lotus had to scramble to find the most competitive driver possible to fill Raikkonen’s vacant seat. In particular, Lotus needed a driver who could help them in their quest to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Among the drivers approached were Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who turned down the offer so that he could see out his season with Sauber, and retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, who was disinclined to make a second comeback to the sport he dominated so thoroughly a decade ago.
Kovalainen is an experienced and highly rated driver, which explains his appeal for Lotus. They approached Kovalainen and Caterham and it was arranged that Kovalainen would be able to return to the grid with Lotus this weekend in Austin, Texas.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier explained the decision to put Kovalainen in Raikkonen’s car:
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Kovalainen expressed his enthusiasm for the task he faces in the next two weeks:
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
To date, Kovalainen has competed in 110 Grands Prix and has scored one victory, four podiums and one pole position. He will be in a competitive car again this weekend for the first time since he left McLaren at the end of 2009 and will be looking to make the most of the opportunity to score points again in Formula One.
Retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher has rejected an offer to race for Lotus in the final two races of the 2013 season. Schumacher retired from Formula One for the second time at the end of 2012 after making a three-year comeback to the sport with Mercedes.
Lotus are in need of a competitive driver to fill in for Kimi Raikkonen, who is unavailable for the US and Brazilian Grands Prix due to the need for surgery on his back. So far, Lotus have approached quite a few drivers, if the rumours are true, and Schumacher is among them.
Sky Sports F1 quoted Schumacher’s spokesperson Sabine Kehm as saying,
“Michael’s performance against Nico (Rosberg) and Nico’s performance against Lewis (Hamilton) made a lot of people aware of how good Michael still was,” she said.
“Plus, he is still very fit. But he just feels so good in his new life.”
A second, albeit brief, comeback by Schumacher to Formula One would have created quite a stir in the sport, particularly as it would have taken place in the United States and Brazil, two countries where he enjoyed an enormous amount of success during his time with Benetton and Ferrari.
Nico Hulkenberg, who currently drives for Sauber, also turned down an invitation from Lotus to take over Raikkonen’s car for the remainder of the season. It seems that Lotus are not interested in giving their official reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, a chance, as he has no experience racing in Formula One and Lotus are in need of strong results as they chase after second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Based on the rumours currently doing the rounds, the most likely driver to take over Raikkonen’s car is Heikki Kovalainen. Although he has not raced in F1 this season, Kovalainen has taken part in six Friday practice sessions for Caterham, for whom he raced from 2010 to 2012. Before that, Kovalainen spent two seasons at McLaren, with whom he won the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.