F1 end-of-year awards: Verstappen dominance, Hamilton positive, Piastri best rookie

We look back on a season dominated by Red Bull but still with plenty of plaudits to go around

Max Verstappen broke many records in 2023, including most race wins in a season. Getty
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This season may go down in history for all sorts of record-breaking reasons but it is unlikely to be engraved on the hearts of many fans beyond Max Verstappen’s Orange Army. Utter Dutch domination means there is little room for laying the plaudits elsewhere but The National still went looking.

Driver of the year

OK, if you just study results it’s difficult to look past Verstappen for his staggering, relentless, perfection but we reckon having that big a car advantage is plain unfair – even if F1 doesn’t – and he’s won enough so The National has delved deeper. Dragging newcomers Aston Martin onto the podium time and again when no-one expected it confirmed 42-year-old Fernando Alonso’s star quality. Beating Sergio Perez and his far superior Red Bull by 0.0053 seconds in Brazil was just jaw-dropping. Then there is Alex Albon. The Thai racer defied the form book as he led Williams’ raids into the points time and again.

Winner: Alonso. There’s life in the old dog yet.

The crying shame - Not - award

Verstappen shattered rival hearts and records in equal measure driving the most dominant car of all time with panache so it’s no surprise he admitted to being tearful on his final lap in the Red Bull beast in Abu Dhabi. His rivals not so much, unless they were tears of joy the season was finally over.

Jaw-dropping award

It’s not often you see an F1 car sideways at 150mph but in Abu Dhabi Lando Norris obliged. The back end of his hard-charging McLaren spectacularly stepped out of line during his bid for pole. A deft flick of the steering wheel and a dab of the power snapped the car back into line in a split second of utter racing genius. Sadly the WRC adventure cost him precious fractions and pole position.

Disappointment of the year - team

You know it’s been a bad year when your highlight is a race you were disqualified from. So it was for Toto Wolff in Austin during Mercedes' winless, worst season of his tenure. Lacklustre Ferrari conjured a single win under new boss Fred Vasseur but change has been slow in coming. While Alpine’s disasters led to the axing of three key figures but the highlight was a Monaco podium.

Winner: Mercedes for their true annus horribilis.

Disappointment of the year - driver

How the Sergio Perez can have sat in the same car as Verstappen and won just twice beggars belief.  The Dutchman won the last seven races and his teammate was third once. Perez was supposedly Red Bull number two but raced like the number 10. Unlike the real thing he had no real competition in this category.

Not-so fun fact award

Both Verstappen and Perez won more races when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started on pole than Leclerc himself did.

What was everyone else doing award?

Red Bull stopped developing their car in mid-season, five months early, and still won the last seven races.

Rescue of the year

After all the hype (and expense), Las Vegas threatened to be a massive dud when action was halted for track repairs on the first day but the weekend ended on a soaring note with a thrilling race for the ages confirming F1 really has conquered America.

Mr Positive award

After yet another beating at Verstappen’s hands Lewis Hamilton predicted his arch rival’s dominance could last another two years.

Quandry of the year

Billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll spent a small fortune on son Lance’s motor racing career, bought an F1 team and, just for extra synergy, iconic car maker Aston Martin as well. Then hired veteran Fernando Alonso for $20 million. The only trouble is two-time world champion Alonso has blown away Stroll’s own son and junior’s place in F1 is now in doubt. Christian Horner faces the same dilemma over Perez but his support has been unstinting, maybe because he just wants a loyal number two to Verstappen.

Winner: Lawrence Stroll

Rookie of the year

Lando Norris’ speed derailed Daniel Ricciardo’s career in 2022 but his replacement Oscar Piastri has proved more than capable, winning one sprint race and leading another. While Liam Lawson super-subbed for injured Ricciardo in a car he had never driven and finished ninth in Singapore, their best result to that date.

Winner: Piastri for sheer motor racing star quality.

Back to the future award

Michael Schumacher cut his teeth in endurance racing before winning seven titles in F1. Son Mick did not make much impact on F1 but plenty on his team’s crash budget, totalling $2 million. So after a season as reserve driver at Mercedes in 2023 he has quit F1 for endurance racing with Alpine.

That's how it goes award

Singapore, the only Grand Prix of the season not won by Red Bull has been voted Best Race Action of the Year by numerous media outlets. Which just proves, you can’t win ‘em all.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 7:37 AM