The 2020 FIA champions were honoured in the first-ever virtual Prize Giving ceremony, hosted by President Jean Todt in Geneva, as a glittering finale to the FIA Annual General Assembly Week.
Unprecedented times call for invention and creativity, and the Prize Giving ceremony was no exception amid the restrictions on mass gatherings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Motorsport is noted for its ability to meet challenges through the power of technology. The champions, along with Deputy President for Sport Graham Stoker, Vice-Presidents for Sport, members of the World Motor Sport Council, Presidents of Commissions and special guests joined the event via video conferencing.
The global virtual audience were part of a truly unique event as the outstanding performers of 2020 were celebrated, tributes paid to those who performed exceptional feats in unique circumstances and those lost to the motor sport fraternity in 2020 were fondly remembered.
“2020 has been an unprecedented year and it’s remarkable to be here and to be able to honour our champions,” said President Jean Todt. “Unfortunately, they cannot be with us in person tonight, but the most important thing is that, through creativity and resourcefulness, we have been able to organize championships – and we have champions to celebrate. I would like to pay credit to all those who made it possible.”
The undoubted standout performer of the night was Lewis Hamilton, whose exploits on and off track yielded three awards. Hamilton ended the 2020 campaign with 95 grand prix victories after standing on the top step of the podium 11 times to collect the trophy as the 2020 Formula 1 World Champion.
The Briton’s achievements over the course of his career and in the past six months have made him Formula 1’s and motor racing’s biggest star. However, it is not only his on-track exploits that have earned him this year’s Personality of the Year award.
In that category, Hamilton was chosen by permanently accredited FIA media from a list of nominees, which included fellow Formula 1 stars Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, the outgoing CEO of Formula 1 Chase Carey, Mercedes-AMG Petronas CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff as well as WRC rally star Elfyn Evans. It was the third time Hamilton has scooped the accolade.
Hamilton also featured in one of three FIA President Awards. The award recognises outstanding achievement, courage and sportsmanship – often in the face of adversity. It also pays tribute to individuals who make an impact on motorsport – and those who contribute to a better world.
Together with Michael Schumacher, the pair were jointly honoured in recognition of their shared achievement in winning seven Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championships and the inspiration their sporting and personal commitments have brought to the world.
Lewis has been at the forefront of several campaigns – the FIA and Formula One’s End Racism and #WeRaceAsOne – and promoting diversity in motorsport.
On reaching the landmark of seven world titles and his work with the Hamilton Commission, Hamilton said: “It’s such a privilege to have the opportunity to reach the milestone. I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I would stand here as a seven-time World Champion.
“The Hamilton Commission is about breaking down barriers and creating opportunity and opening up more doors for everyone. I’m really hopeful that, together with the FIA and Formula 1, we can move forward in this direction.”
Michael is the inspiration behind the Keep Fighting Foundation, created by the Schumacher family to promote the spirit of perseverance, with which he is synonymous. Recently, the Keep Fighting Foundation became the first organisation to pledge 5,000 helmets to the FIA Affordable and Safe Helmet campaign.
Accepting the award on Michael’s behalf, his wife Corinna, said: “Michael has always had a big heart to do something for people who are in need. With the Keep Fighting Foundation, we want to continue the work that he started.”
In praising the pair, President Todt, added: “Michael and Lewis are champions but also incredible human beings. Michael was always ready to support any kind of action to benefit society, for example his work on road safety. Let us not forget that, every year, 1.4million people die on the roads, so to have people like Michael and Lewis to engage with and educate young people is essential.”
In addition, Hamilton was also awarded the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) Trophy for becoming the highest points’ scorer across the three Italian Formula 1 Grands Prix staged this season. He amassed 59 points in total with two wins, a seventh-place and three fastest laps. The trophy was presented via video link by Angelo Sticchi Damiani, FIA Vice-President and the President of the Italien Automotive Club ACI.
In what has been an incomparable year for many reasons, there were three FIA President Awards in 2020.
The recipients of the third award were recognised for their bravery and exceptional reaction in coming to the aid of Haas F1 team driver Romain Grosjean, following his accident on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Marshals from the Bahraini International Circuit rushed to the scene to assist Grosjean’s escape from the fire that had engulfed his race car. They were joined by the FIA Formula 1 Medical Rescue Co-ordinator Dr Ian Roberts and FIA Formula 1 Medical Car Driver Alan van der Merwe. The combined heroics of this group of courageous individuals meant that Grosjean emerged with minor burns to his hands.
The Bahraini marshals were joined by Abdulaziz Al Thawadi, representing his Excellence Sheikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the President of the Bahrain Motor Federation, to receive the accolade from Jean Todt and Professor Gérard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission.
Commenting on how the FIA’s unstinting efforts in motor sport bring benefits to everyday road users, President Todt, said: “It is the role of the FIA to improve safety. As motoring is progressing, motor sport is also progressing. Motor sport has to be a laboratory and every year, we improve the running of motor sport events and benefit mobility.
“Safety is always on top on our agenda, and we are engaging with the FIA Safety Department and the Medical Commission. We spoke a lot about Romain’s accident as it was everywhere on TV. We must work towards our aim of Vision Zero.
“We are relieved that Romain could escape, but we need to understand more about the accident. We need to learn from this as we do with every accident. That is how we make motor sport safer still.”
Grosjean praised the efforts of the medical teams. He said: “What I went through, I wish it to no one. Seeing the footage is still difficult for me but it makes me really proud of the medical teams and the marshals. I am sure they are very proud also. I’m still suffering from the burns, but I’m alive.”
The global pandemic deeply impacted the World Rally Championship. The season was already underway when the virus hit.
When the championship eventually staged its final round at Rally Monza in December, it was Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia who prevailed, clinching their seventh WRC championship. Hyundai Motorsport claimed their second consecutive manufacturers’ crown.
“It’s been a special year for all of us,” Ogier said. “We started with three rallies then had a long break. On every rally, we had to give everything we had. Seven is a really nice number.”
Johan Kristoffersson returned to the World Rallycross Championship after a one-year hiatus to claim a record-breaking third drivers’ accolade. Kristoffersson said: “The first championship win is unique, but this year was very special. It was a hectic year with a new schedule, double headers, so you had to arrive well prepared.”
Looking to the future, an electric future for FIA World RX, Kristoffersson added: “The future of electric in RX can be bright. I had the first taste of it with Extreme E recently.”
Fellow Swede Joel Christoffersson guided his KYB Team JC squad, with the pairing of Mattias Ekström (second overall in the drivers’ standings) and Robin Larsson, to the teams’ crown with two event wins and six podium finishes.
In an illustration of just what an unprecedented year 2020 was, the iconic 24 Hours Le Mans, the jewel in the crown of the FIA World Endurance Championship, was moved to September from its traditional June date.
Like so many other motor sport events, the round-the-clock drama played out before empty grandstands at the Circuit de La Sarthe due to health and safety protocols.
The 2019-20 WEC season featured eight events in all with the trio of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López taking the drivers’ championship, while securing the LMP1 manufacturers’ honours for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
“It has been a long season. With what’s been going on this year, it was really rewarding to finally wrap up the championship,” Conway said. “I’m looking forward to next year and the new Hypercar era.”
The Danish duo of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim were top of the LMGTE Pro class with Aston Martin Racing the winning manufacturer.
The FIA WTCR crowned its youngest-ever World Champion, 24-year-old Yann Erhlacher with Cyan Racing Lynk & Co on defending the WTCR teams’ championship.
Since its inaugural season in 2014-15, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, which next season joins the FIA World Championships portfolio, has been setting standards in the area of innovation and alternative energy. This year, it became the first global sporting series to achieve net zero carbon footprint since inception. Next season it joins the FIA World Championship portfolio.
In 2019-20, the championship was as competitive as ever with a different winner at each of the opening five races. Second places in Chile and Mexico laid the foundations for Portugal’s António Félix da Costa’s maiden win of the campaign in Morocco.
That victory enabled him to assume the championship lead, before the intervention of COVID-19 resulted in a Season 6 climax featuring six, back-to-back events at the former Berlin Tempelhof airport.
Da Costa took two wins in the German capital to round out the season with almost twice as many points as his nearest rival, while the Portuguese driver’s DS Techeetah crew were teams’ champions.
“It was a big challenge for me, joining the team this year. I had to learn everything,” Da Costa said. “We were on a really good run of results but we were forced into the lockdown. I felt I was in a much better position than my contenders as I just took the lead of the championship, winning in Marrakesh. Everyone worked very hard to make this happen and I’m really grateful for that.”
In FIA Karting World Championship, 19-year-old Callum Bradshaw was crowned the OK world champion, fellow British driver Freddie Slater, aged 12, won the OK-Junior title and, after a quest that has spanned 15 years, France’s Jérémy Iglesias achieved his ambition of becoming world champion – in the KZ category, at the age of 33.
In single-seaters, the FIA Formula 2 Championship went down to the wire with two Ferrari Driver Academy duellists vying for honours at the season’s end in Bahrain.
The drivers’ championship went to Mick Schumacher ahead of Briton Callum Ilott. Schumacher is looking ahead to 2021 when he will make the step up to the premier category with the HAAS Formula 1 team.
Reflecting on his achievement, Mick, who recently took part in the F1 rookie driver test at Abu Dhabi, said: “I’m just trying to realise what actually happened this year and how far I’ve gotten in my career. It was great to be with the Haas F1 team in Abu Dhabi and seeing how they work. It was also helpful spending time with them at the young driver test.”
“I learnt a massive amount of how to drive the F1 car – particularly about the long runs. I’m looking forward to the first racing now and I can’t wait to jump in the car again.”
In an equally nail-biting finish, the FIA Formula 3 Championship culminated in a three-way contest at the season-ending denouement in Mugello, where Oscar Piastri and PREMA Racing emerged victorious making it an F2/F3 double for the Italian outfit.
A number of other special awards included the FIA Outstanding Official Of The Year for Hungary’s Attila László, whose inspiring story of unwavering dedication and commitment to motor sport after a life changing injury.
The FIA Rookie Of The Year was selected from drivers who have just completed their first season in an FIA championship. For 2020, a number of emerging talents made their mark in their first season of an FIA competition from off-road competitions to top-level single-seater categories.
The recipient, voted by the FIA Commission judging panel, was 20-year-old Japanese racer Yuki Tsunoda, who recorded three wins on his way to third place in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. In further acknowledgement of his burgeoning skills, Tsunoda will make his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Alpha Tauri in 2021.
Formula 1 veteran Kimi Räikkönen took the FIA Action Of The Year trophy. The award celebrates the most spectacular moments of the past racing year and is the only prize of the evening voted for by motor sport fans around the world on FIA.com.
The legendary Wood brothers, Eddie and Len, with a career spanning eight decades, and a bulging trophy cabinet, which includes 99 NASCAR Cup wins as well as helping a certain Jim Clark to Indy 500 glory, were honoured with the FIA Founding Members’ Club Heritage Cup.
Since 2018, the FIA has been working in partnership with perhaps the most famous racing game of all time – Gran Turismo. The 2020 World Finals was a global celebration of digital motor sport, with three days of exciting racing and 40 competitors participating from home in 19 countries.
In the FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships, Takuma Miyazono was crowned 2020 FIA GTC Nations Cup Champion while Subaru won the Manufacturer Series with Takuma Miyazono, Mikail Hizal and Daniel Solis.
On a sadder note, tributes were also paid to those whom the motor sport farewelled in 2020 including:
Sheik Hamad Bin Eid Al Thani – 1966-2020 – Rally Champion
Uberto Bonucci – 1952-2020 – Historic Hill Climb Champion
Fernando Falco – 1939-2020 – President of RACE and FIA Vice-President of Honour
Daniel Fausel – 1945-2020 – Director of Auto Sport Switzerland and FIA Homologation Commission President
Otto Flimm – 1929-2020 – President of ADAC and FIA Deputy President of Honour
Martin Holmes – 1940-2020 – Rally journalist
Steven Kennedy – 1958-2020 – President of MotorSport New Zealand
Burdette Martin – 1946-2020 – President of FIA Homologation Commission President
Sir Stirling Moss – 1929-2020 – Motorsport Legend
Saša Petrič – 1952-2020 – AMZS Club Correspondent
Ron Tauranac – 1925-2020 – Motorsport Engineer
Fedor Vorobyev – 1973-2020 – Cross Country Bajas Champion
The evening concluded with a virtual family photo and a final applause for all of the 2020 champions and category winners as the curtain fell on what has been a challenging but ultimately successful motor sport year.