It was a pompous end to the 2023 motorsport season that the FIA, the world automobile association, presented on Friday evening in Baku (Azerbaijan). The champions of all FIA classes were honored, and the crowning highlight at the end of the gala was the silver world championship trophies for the Formula 1 world champions Max Verstappen and Red Bull as well as the second and third place finishers in the drivers’ championship (Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton ).
As the evening slowly approached its climax, an image film showed little Max Verstappen with Michael Schumacher, then still a Ferrari driver, running his hands through his straw-blonde hair. Verstappen, now three-time world champion, was then the absolute star of the evening when he received his trophy from the hands of FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem himself.
Verstappen explained in his short speech that he only “really realized in Abu Dhabi that the season is over and I will no longer drive this great car. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved this year. And I hope “That it doesn’t stop there.”
First up was Lewis Hamilton, who, as third in the World Championship, received a rather plain FIA logo as a prize. “Max was flawless and we have a lot of work to do to close the gap to them,” said the Mercedes driver during his short speech. Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali awarded the prize for second place (also an FIA logo) to Sergio Perez.
Afterwards, Christian Horner, team boss of Red Bull, came on stage to receive the constructors’ trophy. “To have won 21 of 22 races and five of six sprints is something very special,” he said on a “big evening for us, after a big year in which we are very proud of what we have achieved.”
Formula 1: Alonso shares prize with Perez
The first Formula 1 award, which was presented on Friday evening, was in the “Action of the Year” category. The prize was won (among ten nominees) by Fernando Alonso for his winning duel against Sergio Perez at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“I would also like to thank Sergio and share the award with him,” said Alonso, who was not personally in Baku to receive the award, in his video speech. Meanwhile, Perez sat at the table with Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and acknowledged his opponent’s words with a smile.
Alonso continued: “Every duel always requires that the other person plays along. I think this should be an example not only for today’s but also for future generations of how you can drive against each other without the cars touching each other.”
By the way, this year wasn’t without an embarrassing moment either, after there was a bizarre dialogue between Horner and Sulayem in Bologna in 2022. This time the FIA President decided to take a photo on the stage and asked, among others, Horner and Domenicali, who had already sat down again, to come back.
While the show hosts looked at each other questioningly, it took longer than expected for the two to arrive. “Christian? And Stefano?” Sulayem asked into the microphone, and Verstappen said: “I think he’s already gone.” When Horner arrived again, the moderator joked: “There you go, someone’s here.” In the end Domenicali also came for the photo…