Motor racing-Verstappen sweeps hat-trick of awards

By Alan Baldwin LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Dutch rookie Max Verstappen, signed controversially as a 16-year-old by Toro Rosso, has swept a hat-trick of awards after confounding his critics in an impressive debut Formula One season. Now 18, the son of former racer Jos won votes for personality of the year, rookie of the year and action of the year at the International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s end-of-year prize-giving in Paris. The FIA said it was the first time any driver had taken more than one of the special, non-championship related awards in the same season. The personality award is voted by the world's media from across the FIA championships, including rallying and endurance. The rookie award is decided by the FIA's driver commission, headed by Brazilian two times Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi. The action category is the result of a global vote by motorsport fans, with Verstappen winning for his overtake on Brazilian Felipe Nasr at Blanchimont during the Belgian Grand Prix, the closest thing to a home race for the teenager. Verstappen won the same award last year while in Formula Three. "It's nice to win the Action of the Year for the second time, because I really enjoy overtaking on track," said Verstappen. "It's a great honour to win the Rookie of the Year award, as it's voted for by the Drivers' Commission and I have to say, getting two fourth place finishes in my first F1 season is more than I expected. "Personality of the Year? I'm not sure why I won that, but it's nice to know the media like me," added the teenager, whose arrival in Formula One was so precocious that the FIA changed the licence rules and introduced a minimum age of 18. Verstappen was the highest-scoring Formula One rookie of the season, finishing 12th overall with 49 points after finishing fourth in Hungary and the United States. Sauber's Nasr was 13th with 27. Mexico, returning to the calendar for the first time in 23 years and drawing 135,000 fans on race day at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, received the race promoters' trophy from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. "Mexican fans are unique. This award is for Mexico," said promoter Alejandro Soberon. Britain's Lewis Hamilton also collected his third Formula One trophy at the ceremony after another dominant season with Mercedes. "It's pretty much impossible to put into words what it means to be a three-time world champion," he said. (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)