Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton is to be penalized if he fails to attend the 2023 FIA Prize Gala. The seven-time champion has not been present at the last two editions of the prestigious ceremony.
According to FIA regulations, champions are only crowned at the Gala held at the end of the season. Attendance is mandatory for drivers who have finished in the top three driver positions. Hamilton finished second in 2021 but chose not to go to the Gala due to the controversial manner in which he lost the championship at that year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver was also absent from the 2022 Prize Gala. However, he finished sixth at the end of a disappointing 2022 campaign, so he didn’t have to miss last year’s event. In 2023, with one race remaining, Hamilton has a much better season. The 38-year-old is third in the drivers’ standings and is certain to finish the year on top regardless of the result in Abu Dhabi next Sunday.
As a result, Hamilton will have to appear at the 2023 Prize Gala alongside runner-up Sergio Perez and now three-time World Champion Max Verstappen. If he fails to appear, he will be subject to a fine from the FIA. Several laps from the end of the final race of 2021 in Abu Dhabi, the 38-year-old was cruising to a record eighth world title before Nicolas Latifi crashed several laps from the end, bringing out the safety car.
The former director of the race, Michael Masi, initially ordered that lapped cars could not overtake the safety vehicle until it left the track. This means that Verstappen would not have had time to get behind his rival before the allotted number of laps had been completed.
However, the Australian abruptly and controversially changed his mind, allowing the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlock themselves before ordering the safety car off the track. As such, the Dutchman was allowed to go side-by-side with the British driver before overtaking him during the one-lap shootout, benefiting from driving on much newer tires and sealing his first ever world title.
Still furious from Masi’s actions that day, Hamilton chose to skip the Prize Gala and was subsequently fined. In March 2022, the British driver said the money would go to help disadvantaged students. Ahead of the first race of the 2022 campaign, he said: “There will be some kind of fine in relation to the gala.
“But we have worked together to ensure that the money is made available to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds [to help] they go into motorsport engineering.” In 2022, Hamilton won the Act of the Year award as voted for by fans, but he was not in the building to collect it in person. He won it for his great battle with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez at the 2022 British Grand Prix.
Specifically, he was going to overtake both of them in the same move. Hamilton finished third in that race, while Carlos Sainz claimed his first F1 race win. It remains to be seen whether Hamilton will be at the 2023 Prize Gala, but before then, he will be hoping for a strong end to the season at the Abu Dhabi GP on Sunday.
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