So the draw is in:
I'll provide you with a Nostradamus-like prophecy of how things'll shape up, so if you don't want any spoilers, please stop reading now.
Team Finland - Team eROC
I know jack squat about the eROC-guys, so Team Finland will be favourites by default.
Team GB - Team Germany
This one's actually a bit tough to predict. Vettel was very impressive last year and will probably be the best individual driver in this matchup, but otherwise I think it will be fairly close. Chadwick was fairly competitive last year (beating Häkkinen in a heat if I'm not mistaken). I still think that the German's more recent racing experience will pay off and that they'll end up advancing.
Team Norway - Team France
The unknown factor here is Adrien Tambay. I have no idea how well he'll take to racing on snow, but the other three are all more or less to be considered as specialists. As these contests generally are dependent on not having the weakest link in your team I'd say that the norwegians are favourites here.
Team Sweden- Team Nordic
A similar story here. Kristoffersson/Ekström are both all-rounders who'll be strong on any surface, while the Nordic team (Kristensen/Rosenqvist) are circuit-based racers. Sweden should take this one.
Team USA - Team All-starts
A tricky one. I honestly don't really know how to gauge the americans, while Drugovich on snow is also an unknown quantity. Thierry Neuville should be strong of course. On balance, my gut feeling is that the americans will take this one, although this is dependent on Drugovich struggling (which won't necessarily be the case).
Team Finland - Team Germany
This will be interesting. Thinking about it, Bottas will probably be fairly strong on ice given his passion for rallying. I think Vettel will continue to shine while Mick and Mika are more uncertain. I'm thinking coin flip here, but with a 51-49 advantage to the Germans.
Team Norway - Team Sweden
Speaking of coin flips... In the end, I think that the Solbergs may be slightly more motivated here (to retain their crown), so I'll give them the nod on that basis.
Team USA - Team Germany
Gut feeling again.
Team Norway - Team Germany
A second straight title for the Solberg family is my prediction. They are one of few teams with two top line snow drivers and also seem to have the necessary motivation to treat this as a true competition.
Race of Champions:
Adrien Tambay - David Coulthard
As mentioned previously, I have no idea whatsoever how strong Tambay will be in this context, but he's a contemporary racer (which I think should be quite heavily weighted in his favor), and Coulthard is not a natural snow racer. I'll give Tambay the nod here.
Felix Rosenqvist - Mick Schumacher
Felix is adaptable and racing in front of his (sort of) home crowd. I think he'll be slightly faster than Mick.
Round of 16:
Mika Häkkinen - Felipe Drugovich
I'll continue to go by the "contemporary-racers-will-beat-retired-stars" rule here, even though Drugovich on snow is a complete unknown. It could just as easily be a complete walk-over by Mika.
Adrien Tambay - Felix Rosenqvist
Again a tricky one, I'll give Felix the nod based on his versatiity.
Valtteri Bottas - Tom Kristensen
A bit of a shame that these two were pitched against each other this early. Bottas has more rally experience (I think) and is my pick to advance.
Sebastian Vettel - Jamie Chadwick
Vettel made it to the final last year and should win this one.
Sebastien Loeb - Thierry Neuville
Tricky, tricky, tricky... I really feel for Neuville who obviously should be strong in this competition, but paired with Drugovich will make the Nations cup difficult, and then he gets drawn to face Loeb in the first round of the individual contest... Loeb also has the experience of racing these cars last year, so he should be the favourite.
Petter Solberg - Oliver Solberg
Father vs son. I'll apply the good ole contemporary-racers rule thing again and proclaim Oliver the (very slight) favourite here.
Johan Kristoffersson - Tanner Foust
Kristoffersson is one of the drivers I'm looking forward to seeing the most. Strong on all surfaces (I suppose) and with an axe to grind from last year.
Travis Pastrana - Mattias Ekström
Mattias was one of the strongest drivers last year and there's no reason to believe he'll be less strong this year. Another driver who's good in whatever vehicle/surface combination he's faced with. Still, Pastrana will probably not be a push-over.i
Felipe Drugovich - Felix Rosenqvist
The versatility of Rosenqvist could take him quite far in this competition. Although both drivers are (as mentioned multiple times already) unknowns on snow.
Valtteri Bottas - Sebastian Vettel
I have to go with Valtteri on this one based on his rally experience, although Vettel was seriously impressive last year. Should be a close one...
Sebastian Loeb - Oliver Solberg
Can anyone beat Loeb? At anything?
Johan Kristoffersson - Mattias Ekström
Didn't they face off in the quarter final last year with Ekström the winner? If my memory serves me correctly I'll just re-hash that match-up here. Otherwise I'll consider that phantom memory a prophecy instead.
Felix Rosenqvist - Valtteri Bottas
This one should go quite clearly to Bottas.
Sebastien Loeb - Mattias Ekström
Didn't they face off in the semi final last year with Loeb the winner? If my memory serves me correctly I'll just re-hash that match-up here. Otherwise I'll consider that phantom memory a prophecy instead.
Valtteri Bottas - Sebastien Loeb
Rule one: always bet on the rally driver. Rule two: within that sub-set; always bet on Loeb.
Ok, in doing this I realize that I'm essentially predicting a repeat of last year's event, with Team Norway claiming the Nations cup and Loeb winning the Race of Champions. Perhaps not the most exciting predictions, but that's life I suppose. Still, it should be a fun weekend with hopefully an upset or two on the cards.
Edited by Rediscoveryx, 27 January 2023 - 08:01.