So, who won?

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Enstone, 2006Today is the annual FIA Gala when the top drivers and teams of the year have an enormous bash and all the prizes are handed out.

Including, of course, the FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Championship and the FIA Formula One World Constructors’ Championship trophies.

It begs an obvious question – why on earth is this prize-giving extravaganza shielded away from the eyes of the public when it has such enormous publicity value?

On the tenth of September Sam Hornish Jnr crossed the finishing line at the Chicagoland Speedway in the final round of the Indy Racing League. He did not win the race – but his third place was enough to give him the championship title.

And didn’t the fans know about it. Immediately after the race Hornish was ushered onto a specially constructed plinth and received the trophy amid a flurry of fireworks and ticker tape.

Now compare that to how Fernando Alonso won the (substantially more prestigious) F1 drivers’ championship title this year. He stood second on the podium at Interlagos, sprayed the champagne as usual and… that was it.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2003Three years ago Michael Schumacher won the championship but, having finished eighth in the final round in Suzuka, Japan, disappeared off to no public fanfare.

The IRL way of doing things may seem to some people as being unnecessarily ostentatious. I’m not sure of that – plenty of other sports know how to celebrate a championship won: look at how Italy received the football World Cup this year, for example.

At the very least the winning of a championship in F1 deserves some kind of acknowledgement. Why can’t a newly-crowned champion be allowed onto the podium, regardless of where he’s finished in the actual race? It seems potty not to make a big deal out of it.

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