Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton "lost" his FIA trophy last Friday after thinking that an FIA official had taken it for safekeeping. AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

There has been quite a mystery surrounding British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton's third-place trophy from the FIA, which he received at the end-of-season Prize Giving ceremony in Baku on Friday. The trophy has since disappeared, but was later revealed to have been in the possession of a fan who thought that the driver "gifted" it to him.

That sounds very strange indeed, and even those involved appear to be quite baffled by what happened.

For those unaware, the FIA holds an annual Prize Giving Gala at the end of each season, and the event is where the winners of various racing disciplines receive their trophies. Hamilton received his trophy for finishing third in the 2023 F1 Driver's World Championship, while Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez received theirs for finishing 1-2 respectively.

Following the event, a fan named Nihad Nesirli suddenly took to social media to share photos of Hamilton's trophy, which ended up in his possession. What's even more surprising was how he was claiming that the seven-time world champion "gifted" him the said trophy.

However, Mercedes clarified on Sunday morning that Hamilton certainly did not give away his trophy to Nesirli. Furthermore, they refuted several media reports which claimed that he left his trophy at the event as a sign of protest against the FIA due to the governing body's recent investigation into Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife Susie Wolff for an alleged conflict of interest due to the latter's involvement with the F1 Academy.

They admitted that Hamilton left the trophy behind on purpose but not for the reasons stated by Nesirli. The statement said: "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."

By this time, many fans had already seen Nesirli's posts claiming to have been given the trophy. He started getting accused of "stealing", to which he responded by explaining exactly how he believed Hamilton gave him the trophy.

He took to social media once again and said: "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."

He added that the driver answered in the affirmative: "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."

Based on Nesirli's story, the whole thing could have been a misunderstanding. Hamilton was used to having someone from the FIA take the trophy after the ceremony, so that is could be safely shipped to the team's headquarters. He may not have anticipated how someone, who is not from the FIA, could ask him for it at the end of the evening.

However, Mirror Sport remains unconvinced that the story is plausible, particularly because Hamilton would have known who to give the trophy to. He could not have possibly given it to a fan who approached him after the ceremony. It is still unclear how the trophy eventually ended up with Nesirli and how the actual person in charge failed to stop the fan from taking the trophy with him after the event.

The FIA is said to have launched an investigation into the matter, and the Mercedes team and Hamilton himself will likely be eager to find out exactly what happened. It is still unclear if the real trophy is in the possession of Nihad Nesirli and whether or not arrangements have been made for its return.

Meanwhile, Hamilton is already gearing up for a short winter break before he and the rest of the team return to the drawing board to devise a strategy to beat the Red Bulls. At the ceremony, he praised the current world champions, saying that Verstappen was "faultless" all season and that he hopes to be able to compete more closely in 2024.