Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi and double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso might not go head-to-head in an ice race at Madonna di Campiglio on Friday - but could face each other at the end of the year.
This week's annual Ferrari/Ducati Press Ski Meeting ends with the two and four-wheel grand prix stars taking part in exhibition races on a frozen lake, but - despite previous reports Rossi would be fit to drive after his mid-November shoulder surgery - it is far from certain that will happen.
There is added interest in such a clash because in 2006 Rossi (unsuccessfully) challenged Alonso to a head-to-head battle with an F1 car, WRC car and MotoGP bike to see who was fastest - after the Spaniard played down Rossi's Ferrari F1 test form.
But the pair have been on friendly terms at Madonna di Campiglio and, during a press conference on Thursday, Alonso both paid tribute to new Ducati rider Rossi and revealed the possibility of the end-of-year 'challenge' between them.
“We got to know each other better last year at Maranello when Valentino came to collect his Ferrari,” said Alonso, who starts his second season as a Ferrari F1 driver in 2011.
“He's a very nice guy and as a rider there's not much to say: he's won nine world championships and he's the best in the history – and, perhaps the future – of motorcycling because it will be very difficult to repeat his results.
“He's loved all over the world and that is another virtue: the passion that Vale arouses is like a tenth world title.
“A challenge between us? I can't say anything certain but perhaps at the end of the season, in December, there could be a surprise: on two wheels, four wheels or however many wheels that people would like...”