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Formula 1 Qatar GP

FIA will not change F1 world champion wait to get trophy

The FIA has dismissed any suggestion that it could change its stance of having Formula 1 world champions wait until its official prize gala before getting hold of their trophies.

Max Verstappen, FIA F1 Champion, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA President

While other major sporting events – such as the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Superbowl – culminate in the silverware being handed out at the end of the event, F1 has always done things differently.

Its regulations have long stipulated that the champions are only crowned at the FIA Prize Gala which takes place at the end of the season. It is mandatory for drivers that finished in the top three of the standings to attend.

F1’s booming audience and desire to attract new fans has prompted some calls for a change of approach – and that the trophy gets given out to the driver on the night that when the title is secured.

Were this in place now, then Max Verstappen would have got his hands on the award in Qatar on Saturday night after he finally put the 2023 title to bed.

But FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has poured cold water on the idea of a change of approach and says there are very good reasons why the F1 champion must wait.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, receives his Sprint race trophy from Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, receives his Sprint race trophy from Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

In particular, he thinks having the F1 champion only crowned there makes it a special night for other FIA winners – and helps inspire the next generation of talent.

“It's the night of the champions,” he told selected media, including Autosport, in Qatar. “When I first won my [Middle East Rally] championship, you have no idea before about the sleepless night before going to France, to be at Paris, to go to the Concorde and to be given a trophy.

“Even now I feel my hairs [on my arm] standing up, because I remember that I was so young, I was 25-years-old.

“To go there is what you dream of, and that's how the other youngsters also look at it.

“It is the night of the champions where the young people can see the winner, the champion of F1. And that's the idol for them. Do you want me to make sure the dream doesn't come true? No.”

Ben Sulayem believed that handing out the F1 trophy in the way it has always been done added to its historical legacy.

Speaking against the backdrop of tensions between the FIA and FOM over Andretti’s bid to join the F1 grid, Ben Sulayem said grand prix racing’s relevance remained as strong as ever.

“All this talk of a split and we go to court – and then what would happen - create another championship that's hollow? That doesn't have [Juan-Manuel] Fangio? Doesn't have Michael Schumacher? Doesn't have all of these winners.

“If you are a driver, you want to be like someone. So, to them, to come to that day, of the night of the champions, believe me, it's a dream to them.

“I see your point, but we give them something and we give something big.”

Verstappen himself said that he was not too fussed about having to wait to get his hands on the drivers’ trophy – especially because he already had two replicas.

“It’s OK, they look the same,” he said. “I have two at home so they're not changing. It's just one extra name on it. But it's OK, I can wait a little bit. Yeah, I got one next to my sim rig and one next to the TV.”

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