Following his victory in the 2021 World Drivers’ Championship, Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.
After a season-long arm wrestle with Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton, the Dutchman pipped the Mercedes pilot to the drivers’ title in a contentious conclusion in Abu Dhabi.
In a 22-race season, he won ten races, qualified on pole ten times, and finished on the podium a record 18 times.
“A big thank you to everyone voting for me from the Laureus Academy,” Verstappen stated after he received his Laureus award.
“A very special year, a very hectic year because the pressure was always on.
“I couldn’t do this without the team behind me, the people back at the factory. It was an incredible effort that we won the championship.”
“I want to give a special mention also to my dad [former F1 driver Jos Verstappen]. Without him, I wouldn’t be standing here today and I appreciate every moment we share together in this success story and hopefully many more to come,” Verstappen added.
“I was very happy, of course, but it was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud.”
“Since I was a little kid I was dreaming of being on the top step and winning the championship.”
“Afterwards, I said to my Dad ‘We did it, this is what we worked for all these years and now we are here, the two of us, all the memories, all the years of travelling all over Europe, going for that one goal and we achieved it.”
Verstappen was chosen from a field of nominees that included tennis player Novak Djokovic, who won three grand slams in 2021; swimmer Caleb Dressel, who won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics; record-breaking Bundesliga goalscorer Robert Lewandowski; seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady; and back-to-back Olympic Marathon Gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge.
The 24-year-old is the fourth F1 driver to get the award, following Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Sebastian Vettel.
Valentino Rossi, who retired from motorcycle racing last year with seven MotoGP titles and nine grand prix titles overall, won the Sporting Icon Award at the 2022 Laureus Awards.
After winning the constructors’ championship for the eighth consecutive year, Hamilton’s Mercedes team was nominated for World Team of the Year, while Marc Marquez was nominated for World Comeback of the Year.
After missing nearly the whole 2020 season due to a seriously broken arm that required three surgery to eventually fix, the Honda MotoGP racer won three races in 2021.