Verstappen facing tough defence of Laureus award
Max Verstappen has again been nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award but faces a tough defence of the title he won last year.
The Red Bull driver netted one of the most prestigious honours in sports as a result of winning his maiden Formula 1 title at the end of 2021 following a season-long, and often controversial battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
The 25-year-old is in the running to claim back-to-back Laureus accolades after clinching successive F1 championships last year.
Verstappen did so in style by setting a new record for grand prix victories in a season with 15 from the 22 races.
But the Dutch driver goes up against five other major names, notably Lionel Messi who finally helped Argentina win the World Cup in what was almost certainly his last appearance in that tournament.
Messi, who was a joint winner of the Laureus award alongside Hamilton in 2020, became the first footballer to do so, and the first from a team sport.
In the World Cup final in December, the 35-year-old scored twice in a thrilling 3-3 draw with France, as well as netting a penalty in a 4-2 shoot-out victory.
Another rival to be nominated by Laureus is France star Kylian Mbappe who netted a hat-trick in the final and a penalty in the shoot-out, only to be denied by Messi and Argentina.
Other nominees include two-time winner Rafael Nadal after he won the Australian and French Opens during an injury-hit season.
NBA finals MVP Stephen Curry makes the shortlist after helping the Golden State Warriors to victory over the Boston Celtics, as does pole-vault legend Armand Duplantis who won the 2022 world title with a record 6.21m clearance.
Red Bull in contention for Laureus team award
Red Bull is also in the running for the World Team of the Year award after winning its first constructors’ title since 2013 last season.
Three F1 teams have previously received the accolade – Renault in 2006, Brawn GP in 2010 and Mercedes in 2018.
Red Bull was previously nominated after winning the constructors’ championship in four consecutive seasons from 2010-2013 but always missed out.
On this occasion, Red Bull goes up against Messi’s Argentina and England’s women’s football team after its triumph in last year’s European Championships.
Also nominated are Curry’s Golden State Warriors, France’s male rugby team and Spanish men’s football team Real Madrid.
The winners are expected to be announced at the end of April.