The FIA officially crowned its 2006 World Champions at a gala ceremony in Monaco. The ceremony culminated in the presentation of an FIA Gold Medal for Motor Sport to Michael Schumacher, the recently retired seven-time Formula One world champion.

Michael Schumacher said: "I have received a huge amount of joy and pleasure from motor sport. To all of you and all of the people everywhere I really want to express my thanks. I have had such a love for this sport, it doesn't need motivation. You do it as good as you can and luckily I have a lot of great people around me who have allowed me to achieve what we have achieved together."

The medal, which was the final presentation on stage in the Salle des Etoiles at the Monaco Sporting Club, is awarded to an individual that, either through exceptional success, or outstanding effort, has made a substantial contribution to motor racing. It was presented to Schumacher by FIA President Max Mosley and Formula One Management President Bernie Ecclestone.

Max Mosley said: "It's a career that has never been equalled in the past and probably never will be in the future. In addition to his extraordinary achievements on the track I have to say Michael has helped us enormously with all sorts of work on road safety all over the world."

Bernie Ecclestone said: "All sports need a superstar and Michael is a superstar. Michael's achievements speak for themselves so I don't really need to say anything more about them. But what they don't say is what a lovely guy Michael is and he is supported by a really lovely family. He's a lucky guy and I wish him all the best in the future."

The Gala event, attended by the major figures in world motor sport, also saw the presentation of the second consecutive FIA Formula One World Championship drivers' trophy to 25-year-old Fernando Alonso.

Alonso said: "This is my last official event with Renault and after a fantastic relationship now is the perfect point to finish, being World Champion again in both constructors' and drivers' championships. I feel very happy with my career with Renault and now I start a new challenge."

Alonso was joined on stage by Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, who received the trophy for winning the constructors' championship.

Briatore said: "This is the best. I am pleased for Renault, I'm pleased for the team and especially for the sport because it was good to see a very intense fight with Ferrari. It was a great season."

-credit: fia