The 2019 Prize Giving Ceremony was about more than just celebration. The evening was defined by the tragic events in Belgium and dedicated to the memory of the late Anthoine Hubert.
Set in Monte Carlo, Monaco, the principality had a different feel to it than back in May. The streets were no longer laid out in the form of a racetrack, and the sunshine that immersed the area had been replaced by rain and the wintery bite of December. The location was no less stunning though. Held in a venue named Twiga that overlooked the harbour, it was decorated elegantly, with a sophisticated golden theme.
The first call from Alex Jacques to be seated came just after 8pm, and while it didn’t fall on deaf ears, people only gradually began to make their way to their seats, slowly, and still in mid-conversation, as is natural at the start of an evening like this. The second call came five minutes later, and what followed was pure silence. As they sat, the lights dimmed and Juan Manuel Correa appeared on the large wide screen at the back of the room. Discussing his injuries, and the toughest few months of his life, the American thanked everyone for their unwavering support in the time that has followed the tragic events at Spa.
Shortly after Correa’s message, a similar video from Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, appeared on the screen. The Frenchman congratulated Nyck de Vries and Robert Shwartzman on their Championship wins, and praised the junior formula community for the way they handled the events in Spa and the pain that is still felt greatly amongst everyone in attendance.
12 trophies lined the stage, one for each of the top three drivers, and top three teams in both Formula 3 and Formula 2. Unbeknown to the attendees, two were missing. The Pirelli award, which had been won by Luca Ghiotto, and the Anthoine Hubert Award. The trophy was created by CEO Bruno Michel and would later be handed out to the year’s highest placed rookie, Guanyu Zhou.
Michel took to the stage to give his own speech and announced the new award. “We decided to create from this season onward the Anthoine Hubert trophy, which will be awarded to the best rookie driver each season. We will ask Victhor, Anthoine’s brother, who, together with Anthoine’s family, is making us the honour to be here tonight, to present this award later on.”
Like Correa’s earlier video, the Frenchman’s touching speech silenced the room, as he praised the unity and togetherness displayed by the paddocks in Spa, and onwards, in what he has previously called the hardest weekend of his working life. The entirety of the room would have more than likely agreed.
He continued: “This season has been different because what happened in our F2 race in Spa suddenly brought us back to the reality of what motor racing can be. It can be one of the most exciting sport and entertainment, but it also can be so cruel.
“We lost Anthoine in Spa, Juan Manuel got very seriously injured, and our whole community woke up with the terrible feeling that this could happen and had actually happened. But in the same time, it also provoked the biggest solidarity I ever experienced since I am involved in this sport, among all the members of what I call our F2 and F3 family, but also from the Formula 1 community and the outside world.
But in the same time, it also provoked the biggest solidarity I ever experienced since I am involved in this sport, among all the members of what I call our F2 and F3 family, but also from the Formula 1 community and the outside world.
“Juan Manuel is getting better and the message he sent us is giving all of us hopes that he will be with us again soon.”
Zhou collected his trophy to a rippling round of applause. The Chinese driver secured five podiums, one pole position and 140 points in his rookie season, securing seventh place in the process. The speech he gave on-stage was passionate and emotional, with more than a nod to Anthoine.
“All of my thoughts and all of my strength is with Anthoine,” he began. “It is really unlucky what happened in Spa and I am wishing all the best to him up there and to his family. At the same time, it is such an honour to receive this trophy here.
“With a new team and people that I have never worked with before, to be fighting for race victories and pole positions, I never expected to be doing that so early in the season. Thanks to them and thanks to my teammate, Luca Ghiotto, who pushed me hard all season. There are still things for me to learn, but this season has been fantastic.”
“All of my thoughts and all of my strength is with Anthoine”
As well as the promise of Zhou’s debut campaign, there was the dominance of De Vries and Shwartzman and the promotion of Nicholas Latifi to Formula 1. Each of them took to the stage throughout the evening, in-between music from Italian artist Alessandro Ristori.
In F2, the prize giving ceremony represented the curtain call for each of the top three drivers, with Ghiotto, Latifi and De Vries all departing. It was a particularly emotional night for Nicholas Latifi, who was saying goodbye to DAMS, his team of four years. The Canadian will join fellow F2 graduate George Russell at Williams next season in F1, but will sorely miss the French team, whose garage had become his second home.
Latifi helped the French side to win the Teams’ Championship this year alongside his teammate Sergio Sette Camara. It proved to be a fitting tribute to their late team owner Jean-Paul Driot, who was mentioned in both the Canadian and his Team Principal François Sicard’s speeches that evening.
For Champion De Vries, it was an opportunity to thank his ART team for their work this year, who helped him to realise his dream of winning the title. The Dutchman’s consistency this season has been unrivalled and his record of four wins, five poles and 12 podiums throughout the year is phenomenal. During his speech, he expressed how greatly he will miss the paddock and the community, before emphasising the excitement he has for his future.
He said: “We had a clear strategy, stuck to it from the beginning and kept focused and accomplished our goals and targets, I’m very, very pleased with that.
“I think it was generally a bit of a rollercoaster ride but we came out on top. I am very happy and proud of being here today and now a new chapter of my career has already started. I would like to thank everyone in Formula 2 and 3 for their amazing work.”
In F3, the trophies were mainly received by PREMA Racing, the Italian team who dominated the Championship, winning the Teams’ title and taking first, second and third in the Drivers’ standings. Their racers, Shwartzman, Marcus Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala, spent the season fighting it out for first, only being separated on the final weekend in Sochi, when Shwartzman secured the Championship on home soil.
Armstrong, who finished second, thanked both of his teammates, explaining how their battle helped to push him on and improve him as the driver, as he strove to match them each weekend. The Kiwi will make the step up to F2 next season, although he’ll be swapping garages and joining ART Grand Prix and he ended his speech with a tongue-in-cheek warning to his now former side.
“Honestly, I feel so privileged to be a part of such a fantastic organisation,” he said. “Jehan and Robert, although we were fighting together a lot this year, I must say, it’s been fantastic to work with you, and I don’t think I’d be the driver I am today without you, so thank you very much.
“Unfortunately, now I need to kick your asses in F2! But, it has been fantastic working with you guys – now let’s kick on.”
Shwartzman expressed a similar sentiment. The Russian was phenomenal in 2019, he appears to be the real deal and many will expect him to challenge straight away in F2, when he makes the step up with PREMA in 2020.
The 20-year-old scored three wins, two poles and 10 podiums on his way to the title, and in his speech he discussed his amazement at what he has achieved this season. He said: “I’m really proud and really happy that the car was always on top. I want to say a big thank you to the team and I am really thankful to the Championship as well.
“It has been my first year in Formula 3 and the support paddock, which was something new, and next year, racing in F2, it is a new challenge. We will do our best to deliver the best result possible. I think for any driver, it means a lot. For me, as well, it is a really big privilege.
“Especially to win it at my home event, it was a pleasure and something special. I have never felt that feeling in my life, it was something really, really special. Thanks to all of the fans who came to Russia to watch the race, as well as my team and my sponsors.”
Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey closed out the ceremony, and with this, chatter resumed. Some headed to the bar, others remained sat at their tables, discussing another season passed. The chapter had closed on what has been the most difficult of seasons. But, throughout the evening, it was important to recognise the incredible highs that tell the other side of this season’s story.
With 2020 will come the introduction of 18-inch tyres and the sparkle of a brand new era. With a new decade beginning, new champions will emerge in F1, and that room at Twiga could well have housed one or two of them…