Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have confirmed their participation in the 23rd Race of Champions in November, boosting the expected crowd as the event switches to Germany for the first time in over 20 years.
The F1 pair are the first to sign up for the end-of-season spectacular, at which they will bid to retain the ROC Nations Cup for a fourth straight year, following its confirmed move to Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena over the 26-27 November.
In recent years, the Race of Champions - which began as a head-to-head between the stars of rallying but has grown to encompass household names from all areas of motorsport - has been held at Paris' Stade de France, London’s Wembley Stadium and, last year, the 'Bird's Nest' stadium built for the Beijing Olympics, but return to Europe for its 23rd edition, albeit retaining the move away from a full weekend schedule, running on the final Friday and Saturday in November.
"After the successful events in the Bird’s Nest in Beijing and Wembley Stadium, we received offers from top class venues all over the globe but, after a long selection process, Germany came out on top," race organiser Fredrik Johnsson noted, "We had a very good experience in 1989 when we organised the second Race of Champions on the world’s first parallel track at the Nürburgring. That had an amazing response from the German fans, so we felt it was time to take the ROC back there after all these years. With Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel fighting it out in Düsseldorf’s covered and heated arena, the atmosphere promises to be really hot – even at the end of November..."
"It’s going to be very exciting to see the Race of Champions in Germany, particularly as Sebastian and I have won the Nations Cup for the last three years," Schumacher, currently struggling on his F1 return, commented, "This is a great opportunity and a fantastic decision from the organisers, and I'm really looking forward to defending our title in front of our home crowd."
Vettel admitted that he was equally thrilled with the decision to move the event to his homeland, but acknowledged that Germany's rivals wouldn’t just lie down and let the home stars grab all the glory.
"It is special to do this kind of event in front of your home crowd," the Red Bull Racing star confirmed, "It will be a unique experience and, hopefully, Michael and I will get a lot of support. We have a good mix of youth and experience and we’ll try to defend our title, but we know it won’t be easy as the others are always pushing.
"Last year, in the individual race, I had a shunt in the semi-final so, hopefully, I can finally make it into that final and get a good result. Either way, it’s a great way to end the season. All the drivers always have a lot of fun together at this event."