Verstappen wins Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award

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Max Verstappen was voted the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for his triumph in the 2021 F1 World Championship.

The Red Bull driver is the fourth F1 driver to receive the prestigious accolade which was won in the past by Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen was among a distinguished group of fellow nominees that included US football legend Tom Brady, Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, swimmer Caeleb Dressel - who won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics - and 20-time tennis Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic.

"A big thank you to everyone voting for me from the Laureus Academy," Verstappen said in his acceptance speech.

"A very special year, a very hectic year because the pressure was always on. I couldn’t do this without the team behind me, the people back at the factory. It was an incredible effort that we won the championship.

"I want to give a special mention also to my dad [Jos Verstappen]. Without him, I wouldn’t be standing here today and I appreciate every moment we share together in this success story and hopefully many more to come.

"I was very happy, of course, but it was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud. Since I was a little kid I was dreaming of being on the top step and winning the championship.

"Afterwards, I said to my dad ‘We did it, this is what we worked for all these years and now we are here, the two of us, all the memories, all the years of travelling all over Europe, going for that one goal and we achieved it.'"

The Mercedes F1 team was also nominated in the Team of the Year category, but the Brackley squad was beaten to the award by Italy's soccer team which defeated England in the Euro 2020 at Wembley.

Finally, retired MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi collected the Laureus Sporting Icon award for his outstanding career in motorcycle racing that includes seven MotoGP titles.

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