The Red Bull man attended the ceremony in Paris on Thursday to collect his first ever Drivers Championship, but things didn’t quite go to plan.
The FIA also awarded Kean Nakamura the FIA karting world championship in the OK-Junior category and the young Japanese driver caused some awkwardness on stage during his acceptance speech.
Being presented his award by former F1 driver Felipe Massa and Verstappen himself, some might have thought praise would be shared between the two respective champions, but many were left surprised.
The young champion was asked which drivers had inspired him to victory, to which he replied: “I grew up watching Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel racing together. I’ve always looked up to all the top racers in F1 really.”
The surprise omission of current world champion Verstappen didn’t go unnoticed by the Dutchman himself and, during an awkward moment, the usually composed driver looked unsure of what to think whilst still on stage.
Perhaps making the event even more awkward was the applause heard at the mention of Hamilton’s name. Whether the timing was just coincidental and they were applauding Nakamura, or if it was a message with purpose, is still being debated, but it didn’t make things any better in that moment.
The comments were made even more controversial following the circumstances of Verstappen’s win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which earned him his maiden title.
Hamilton had led the race for the entire duration until Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed and caused a Safety Car to be deployed.
All drivers obeyed the Safety Car, but race director Michael Masi made a highly unusual decision to allow five lapped cars to un-lap themselves, which destroyed the 11-second lead Hamilton had built up.
Verstappen was then on quicker tyres and with just one lap to go, the race was allowed to restart and Hamilton lost his position.
Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had skipped the ceremony amid rumours that the former is considering leaving the sport over concerns on manipulating results, and, in particular, the end of the last race.