A number of Kiwis were on hand at the FIA Prize-Giving in Baku in recognition of what has been an incredible year of motorsport for the country.
Motorsport New Zealand CEO Elton Goonan and President Wayne Christie were joined by Formula E competitors Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy, British Formula 4 Champion Louis Sharp and European Rally Champions Hayden Paddon and John Kennard for the star-studded ceremony at the Baku Convention Center.
World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley was a noticeable omission from the Kiwi contingent, opting to stay in Monaco and recover from a broken foot sustained in an accident last week.
Amoung those in attendance was Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen, who presented three karting World Champions with their awards at the ceremony’s commencement.
Having finished third in the 2023 Formula E season, Evans joined runner-up Cassidy and title-winner Jake Dennis on stage to collect awards presented by Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds.
Shortly after, the World Endurance Championship-winning Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 team were presented with their titles, with Ryo Hirakawa and Sebastien Bourdais on hand to collect the award from FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, while Hartley tuned in remotely.
The title was one of several collected by Toyota, who also claimed Drivers’, Co-Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ awards in the FIA World Rally Championship and the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship.
Also recognised in the official program was 2023 Formula Regional Americas Champion, Callum Hedge, and the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Champion, Charlie Wurz.
Verstappen, Perez and Lewis Hamilton were also officially presented with their awards for finishing as the top three competitors in the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, the former speaking to the audience on his record-breaking season.
“I was, of course, never thinking about trying to break all these records,” said Verstappen, who, on his way to his third title, broke a 71-year-old record of the highest percentage of race wins in a season.
“I was just trying to do the best I could every single race weekend and enjoy it as well. These kind of great moments don’t come along that often.”
Among other awards, Oscar Piastri was recognised as FIA Rookie of the Year, Fernando Alonso won FIA Action of the Year for his battle with Sergio Perez for the final podium spot at Interlagos, and Sadiq Kalawadh of Bahrain became the FIA Outstanding Official of the Year.
Ben Sulayem rounded out proceedings with a speech of his own, extending his thanks to the hosts of the event and adding, “Tonight, we have celebrated our champions, both the established names, the multiple title winners, as well as the emerging stars of the future from across the spectrum of our competitions.
“The FIA Prize Giving is always a special moment for all and a true celebration of motorsport.”
Header Image: FIA