Lewis Hamilton showed his class when heaping praise on Max Verstappen at the FIA prize-giving Gala in Azerbaijan. The Mercedes star hailed his rival whilst collecting his third-place trophy, but made sure that he sent a word of warning to the rest of the grid when assessing his hopes ahead of next season.
Hamilton was present at the ceremony for the first time since 2020, with Formula One regulations ruling that the top three in the Drivers’ Championship must attend the gala. The 38-year-old was in high spirits on the night, despite only picking up the third-placed trophy.
Upon receiving his award, Hamilton was asked about how he felt the season panned out for him, to which he replied: “Good evening everyone, I just want to wish everyone a big, congratulations on this year.
“For everyone, it has been a very, very long season and very much looking forward to the winter break. We’re working very, very hard on making sure we come back strong next year, I must say a big congratulations to Red Bull, Verstappen and Checo, they’ve done an incredible job this year.
“Max Verstappen was faultless. Max and all of his team really raised the bar and we have a lot of work to close that gap, but I truly do believe that we can close that gap.” Hamilton then went on to thank his Mercedes team for the support they have provided him throughout the season, providing them with a major vote of confidence despite recently opening up on the struggles he has endured in 2023.
“Thank you also to my team, because they never gave up this year,” he continued. “We started off with a sister basically of previous years’ car which was not good and not fun to drive for most of the year.
“But no one gave up, everyone continued to show up every day and that was what was most inspiring and so I hope that we come back next year.” Hamilton received a warm round of applause upon leaving the stage, with Verstappen and other members of his Red Bull team soon taking to the mic to discuss the key factors that helped them enjoy such an impressive, dominant season.
Team principal Christian Horner said: “It has been the most amazing season for the team, winning 21 out of the 22 races this season. Max joins very much the greats today. A big evening for us, a big year for us.”