Lewis Hamilton won a record-setting seventh world title at the Turkish Grand Prix, but you won’t have seen a photo of him holding the championship trophy.
It remains one of the most curious aspects of F1 that the champion does not get his prize when he wins the title, something that sets the series apart from most sports competitions.
As a quick test, try thinking about what the F1 championship trophy looks like (it is difficult as it is rarely featured prominently at events) and then contrast with how quickly your mind conjures up images of other sports trophies. The huge Stanley Cup, the gold FIFA World Cup, the Vincent Lombardi trophy, you name it, you can imagine them. Even the vision of the Masters winner in a flawless green jacket is legendary – he’s as synonymous with golf as Tiger Woods walking down a green in a red shirt on the final day of a Major.
While they all look great, they are special because we associate them with victory – they are delivered immediately after a champion has been crowned. We see them in every image, in every newspaper, in every tweet, in every video montage about that winning athlete or team that will ever be made from that moment on.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for F1 and its World Drivers Championship Trophy, to give it its official name. It doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page, which is somewhat puzzling for the year 2020 and for a sport so often trying to make itself relevant in the modern sports landscape.
It is also a shame, because it is a beauty. A huge silver jug with gold lining, with the name of each champion dating back to the inaugural championship in 1950. If he doesn’t appear behind Hamilton in an interview he did for F1 after the Turkish GP, he was nowhere to be seen as Hamilton celebrated by moving to the level of Schumacher’s seven world titles. That was a truly historic achievement, but at no point did Hamilton get the trophy.
Here it is, for reference.
That’s Hamilton celebrating in 2015 at a postseason gala, hosted by the racing governing body, the FIA. It’s not just for F1 – trophies are awarded for numerous events under the FIA umbrella and Hamilton will receive the 2020 trophy at a similar event later this year.
That’s why if you do a quick Google search for ‘F1 World Championship Trophy’ you will simply see people in tuxedos or suits holding it up, contrast that with the human emotion you can find with a similar search for any of the trophies (or jackets). previously mentioned.
The official explanation given by the FIA is that at this point in the season there could still be protests from rival teams affecting the outcome of the championship. While that is true, the same argument does not apply to the podium trophy presentation immediately after each race and before the official result is set.
Think of the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton finished that race in third place, but was clearly prepared to receive a penalty for his awkward collision with Alex Albon on the final lap. He still visited the podium as ordered by protocol, before visiting the FIA race director Michael Masi and the stewards, where he was penalized and relegated to order. Several hours after the television broadcasts ended, Carlos Sainz and McLaren took their place on the podium for a delayed celebration.
A similar incident took place at the Austrian Grand Prix that year, where Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc on the last lap to win. Verstappen had celebrated on the podium, before both men went to see the stewards afterwards and the official result of the race was at stake for several hours. Verstappen maintained the victory, but it was strange that doubts existed when most of the spectators had seen Verstappen celebrate with the trophy.
If anything, it is the post-race podium that should be delayed, given the speed with which official penalties can be applied after an event. Appeals that could alter the championship have been rare. In 1999, Ferrari was briefly disqualified – handing over the championship to Mika Hakkinen and McLaren – from the penultimate race of the season, the Malaysian Grand Prix, only to be reinstated later that night. In 2007, McLaren appealed to Sauber and Williams for fuel irregularities the week after Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen won the title, which could have altered the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix and made Lewis Hamilton champion, but it did not come. to nothing.
While awarding a new champion his trophy right away would be the most sensible and normal thing to do in F1, it also makes sense given one of the questions so many sports fans grapple with: how successful is a driver on his machine? Awarding a trophy in such a sterile environment does little to promote the driving side of that debate. Nor does it endorse the idea that F1 and the FIA are no longer obsessed with some of the outdated traditions they have clung to for decades.
It is remarkable to remember Hamilton’s first championship, at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, which he celebrated with his team in the paddock as the man he defeated, Felipe Massa, took the podium as the winner of the race. That provided one of the iconic F1 moments of the modern era, with a tearful Massa pounding his chest in front of his home crowd, because it was raw and emotional. It is in those moments that athletes deserve to have in their hands what they have competed for.
This season, Hamilton will receive his trophy in a virtual event, broadcast live by the FIA, in mid-December.