It might not be the biggest he’s won, but Sebastian Vettel says it’s undoubtedly one of the most special.
The four-time Formula One champion added yet another trophy to his growing collection on Wednesday night in Kuala Lumpur, where he was named the Laureus world sportsman of the year.
The 26-year-old was awarded the honour after becoming the youngest ever driver to clinch four successive titles in 2013.
The feat left three-time winner Usain Bolt in the shade, as well as fellow nominees LeBron James (basketball), Rafael Nadal (tennis), Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer) and Mo Farah (athletics).
“When I was a young kid and started competing, I fell in love with my sport and fell in love with racing and fell in love with the fact that if you do well, at the end of the race you receive a trophy,” said Vettel, who had been nominated five times without success.
“It’s still one of the main things that drives me today – to hold a trophy at the end of the race and to be on the podium.
“This one is not the biggest one I’ve ever received, but it’s one of the most special I have now.”
While 2014 got off to a poor start for the German, his Red Bull retiring early in last week’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Vettel sits among only Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost to have won four or more F1 crowns.
But rarely, he said, does he understand the scale of his achievements.
“I think events like to tonight make me realise how many people actually care and follow you, your sport,” added Vettel, ahead of Sunday’s Malaysian GP.
Not to be outdone in the age stakes, 18-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin was crowned the youngest ever world sportswoman of the year.
The American’s record six gold-medal haul at the 2013 world championships put her ahead of previous winners Serena Williams (tennis) and Yelena Isinbayeva (pole vault), Tina Maze (skier), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Brisbane Roar’s own W-League star Nadine Angerer of Germany.
“This is such a dream come true,” Franklin said.
“I’m so happy I was able to come – it was during my Spring break so I’m not missing any school, which worked out perfect!”
Australian golfer Adam Scott missed his chance at glory in Breakthrough of the Year, which was awarded to MotoGP sensation Marc Marquez.
Scott’s drought-breaking US Masters victory wasn’t enough to beat Marquez, who last year became the youngest ever MotoGP world champion at 20 years 266 days.
It was also a disappointing night for surfer Mick Fanning, denied for a third time Action Sportsperson of the Year honours – handed to British BMX rider Jamie Bestwick.
Barely 24 hours after they were crowned German champions for a 24th time, Bayern Munich took out world team of the year.
Their treble in 2013 – a feat likely to be repeated to this year – toppled fellow nominees New Zealand’s All Blacks, the first national rugby team to go unbeaten over 12 months in the professional era.
Meanwhile Nadal took out Comeback of the Year and France’s Marie Bochet sportsperson of the year with a disability.
Winners are chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy, a panel made up of 46 sporting greats including four Australians.
Wednesday’s star-studded ceremony, attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, was scaled back out of respect to those affected by missing flight MH370.