Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel collected his championship trophy last night during the annual FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) Prize Giving Gala, for the first time held in New Delhi, India.
It is the second time the 24-year old driver was crowned Formula One Word Champion, and he is also the youngest driver ever to win two consecutive World Championships. The trophy was presented to the German by FIA President Jean Todt, who also handed the trophies for second and third place in the Championship to Jenson Button and Mark Webber.
“It’s great to be here in India at the FIA Gala to collect my second Drivers’ Championship Trophy,” the 2011 Champion said, and jokingly added, “I have had the trophy in my house all year and didn’t want to give it back, so this means a great deal to me.”
Vettel led the battle for the championship this season from the first to the very last Grand Prix, in the same fashion he has dominated all 19 races on this year’s calendar from start to finish. He scored 11 victories and 15 pole positions, smashing Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of 14 pole positions in one season, and thus taking his second title.
Vettel only missed the podium on two occasions, he was fourth during his German home Grand Prix, and famously crashed out of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the second turn after his right rear tyre had collapsed. He landed third position during the Japanese Grand Prix, and took second place during the Chinese, Canadian, British, Hungarian and Brazilian Grands Prix.
He had already gathered enough points to be World Champion after the Japanese Grand Prix; one race later his Red Bull Racing team was able to clinch the Constructors’ Championship, also for the second consecutive time.
“It’s hard to put into words how it feels to win again; the team stayed focused and made few mistakes and I would like to thank them for all their impressive efforts,” Vettel stated. “The history of Formula One means a lot to me and it’s special to know that we are now somehow a part of that,” he said with pride.
Of course Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was present to collect the trophy for the Constructors’ Championship. “It’s phenomenal what the team has achieved this year,” Horner said after receiving the trophy from Todt. “To win 12 races and take 18 pole positions and 27 podiums to defend our title is something we are very proud of. I would like to thank every member of the team, including Mark and Sebastian for all their hard work.”
Horner praised Vettel for his achievements, “Receiving the award tonight is fantastic and a great end to what has been an incredible year. Seb’s achievement of becoming a double Formula One World Champion is incredible; the fact he is the youngest ever to do this is testament to the exciting young talent that he is.”
At the Gala more people were honored, FIA Institute Honorary President Prof. Sid Watkins received the FIA Academy Gold Medal for Motor Sport for his relentless efforts to make Formula One and motorsport safer by raising the medical and safety standards.
Others who have received this prestigious award in the past were Sir Stirling Moss, Mario Andretti, Sir Jack Brabham, HSH Prince Rainier and Michael Schumacher.
“I'm very proud of the safety developments that have been achieved not just in Formula One but across all levels of motor sport through the work of the FIA and FIA Institute,” Watkins commented. And the now 83-year old neurosurgeon added, “It is an honour to have been awarded the FIA Gold Medal and to be mentioned amongst those great names and I'd like to thank the FIA Academy for acknowledging my small part in racing history.” Although Watkins called it a small contribution, the Briton was the official FIA Formula One Safety and Medical Delegate for 26 years.