Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team have shed some light on the peculiar story surrounding the British driver’s third-place trophy which went missing after the FIA’s end-of-season prize-giving gala in Baku.
The seven-time world champion was present in the Azerbaijani capital on Friday – where he was critical of the sport’s governing body for their investigation into Susie and Toto Wolff – to collect his award for coming third in the 2023 F1 world championship, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez also picking up their gongs for finishing first and second.
However, it soon became apparent via Twitter/X that Hamilton’s trophy had gone missing. An F1 fan, who goes by the name Nihad Nesirli on social media, had been posting photos of the trophy online, claiming Hamilton “gifted” him the prize.
However, Mercedes insisted Hamilton left the trophy behind on purpose and believed he was handing the prize over to an FIA official.
A team statement on Sunday read: “Immediately after leaving the stage, and as has been done at previous prize-givings, Lewis accepted the offer from officials for the trophy to be sent on to the team and therefore left it in their care.
“We can confirm he did not give the trophy to anyone ‘as a gift’, as has been speculated."
Nesirli then responded on Twitter/X, posting: "Hello, good evening. I am very disappointed to see messages written to me like thief or something. First of all I want to say I didn’t steal anything from anywhere.
“This is just a misunderstanding. Lewis Hamilton put the award on the table. I asked him if I could take the prize.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 9, 2023
"He said to me, yes, you can take the prize. And I thought he gifted me the award. But now, after seeing the statement from Mercedes, I understand that Lewis did not gift me the award. He mistakenly thought I was the FIA official in charge of the award."
However, the specifics of how the trophy came to be in Nesirli’s possession – as well as the current whereabouts of the trophy – are unknown and Nesirli has since deleted his account on Twitter/X.
Hamilton was full of praise for Verstappen, Perez and their Red Bull team as he gave a short speech at the prize-giving ceremony.
“I have to say congratulations to Red Bull and to Max and Checo, they’ve done an incredible job this year,” he said.
“Max was faultless. The team really raised the bar and we have a lot of work to do to close that gap. But I truly do believe we can close that gap.”
The 2024 F1 season featuring a record 24 races starts on 2 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix.