Christian Horner and Max Verstappen were finally able to collect both the constructors’ and drivers’ championship trophies at the FIA Prize Giving gala, after being crowned champions for both in Austin and Suzuka respectively.
The Red Bull team principal found himself involved in an awkward exchange with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem when being awarded the team’s prize, with an interaction between the pair leaving the audience baffled.
Max Verstappen was officially crowned a two-time world champion in Japan, where a controversial race saw the Dutchman become mathematically uncatchable by Charles Leclerc or Sergio Perez.
Wet conditions saw the race start delayed, leading to the Grand Prix ending at the expiration of the race clock, rather than the lap count.
With drivers not completing 100 percent of the laps, the points scored for finishing positions should have been scaled down based on the lap count completed, however the FIA deemed that Verstappen would be awarded full points and awarded the championship.
This was not the end of the controversy, as drivers fumed after the race at the FIA’s decision to deploy a recovery crane onto the track in extreme wet conditions, at the exact circuit that Jules Bianchi lost his life in a similar incident.
Ben Sulayem bizarrely decided to address the Japanese Grant Prix controversy when awarding Horner with the constructors’ trophy, much to the confusion of the Red Bull boss.
“Japan, you said, was controversial? No? The FIA was blames for the points, but it was not the FIA who made the rules – it was the teams who made the rules, and we were implementing them. So thanks for that,” said the FIA president.
F1 chief Stefano Domenicali was also present on stage and attempted to move the conversation on, but Ben Sulayem was not to be deterred as he continued on with his rant.
“For me, it’s very, very clear about the FIA, so thank you very much,” he continued.
Horner looked taken aback by the FIA president’s comments, as did Sergio Perez in the audience, but decided not to reply to the Japan rule clarification, instead graciously accepting the trophy and moving on.
Ben Sulayem also made a comment during his rant about being sponsored by Red Bull during his racing days, which has led to outrage on social media, with some fans suggesting that the FIA president may hold some bias towards Red Bull due to his previous ties to the team.