Image editorial credit: meunierd / Shutterstock.com
If you’ve watched the French Grand Prix podium ceremony over the last few years, you may have noticed that the top three are presented with a curious trophy shaped like a gorilla! But why does the trophy have this characteristic shape?
The French Grand Prix trophy is a gorilla because the race organizers designed it that way. French artist Richard Orlinski created the trophy from one of his most popular designs, “Wild Kong,” which uses the figure of the King Kong gorilla in an invincible pose.
It is not uncommon for motorsport events to have unique and distinctive trophies; the gorilla trophy for the French Grand Prix is one example. Read on to find out all about it!
Why Is The French GP Trophy A Gorilla?
After a ten-year absence, the French Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2018, held at the modern Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet. One of the most striking details of the race was the curious trophy given to the podium finishers, which was in the shape of a gorilla.
The idea originated from Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice and one of the personalities most involved in returning the French Grand Prix to Formula 1. Estrosi suggested that the French artist Richard Orlinski be commissioned to design the trophy.
Thus, for the design of the trophy for the Grand Prix, Orlinski based it on one of his most famous works called “Wild Kong,” which reinterprets the fantastic creature of King Kong with his mouth open on stubborn fangs, proclaiming himself invincible by beating his chest with menacing fists.
For the race award, Orlinski modified his design according to the instructions of Estrosi and Pirelli, the official F1 tire supplier and sponsor of the French GP. For the 2018 edition, the gorilla lifted a tire from the Italian manufacturer.
Evolution Of The French Grand Prix Gorilla Trophy
For the first edition in 2018, as we said above, the gorilla trophy lifted a Pirelli tire and was painted in the colors of the French flag. 2019 the design was exactly the same, but the trophy was entirely white for the winner, blue for the second, and red for the third, thus forming the flag.
In 2020, the Grand Prix was not held due to calendar changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the race and the gorilla returned in 2021. The design and color pattern was the same as in 2019, but this time, the gorilla raised its arms without having a Pirelli tire, as Emirates took over the event sponsorship.
During these years, curiously, next to the podium, there was a giant gorilla sculpture that accompanied the winners during the celebration and was a copy of the trophy but in large size.
In 2022, however, the design was changed, and the gorilla disappeared. Instead, a much more conventional glass, the elongated-shaped trophy, was used. The reasons for this unexpected change are unknown, as everyone expected the gorilla to return as it had done in previous years. It is not yet known if it will be back in 2023 or if it has been permanently replaced.
What Do Fans Think Of The French GP Gorilla Trophy?
The awarding of the curious gorilla-shaped trophy generated numerous comments from Formula 1 fans in 2018 and during the following Grands Prix, creating a great divide between those who loved it and those who criticized it.
Many did not like the design, as they did not see any connection between the Grand Prix and the figure, and they did not like the appearance. Others, on the other hand, appreciated the original and unusual design, claiming that it offers more variety to trophy designs and is different. These were some of the comments:
“That’s one of the ugliest trophies, with Heineken ones in Monza… They manage to ruin every aspect of the sport. Great job, Liberty; you lost all the petrolheads.”
“Bit ugly, but I like the fact that it has personality. I remember those old Santander bank trophies that used to be given in Barcelona and Monza. Just hate that thing.”
“Even though it looks ridiculous, it has become quite an iconic design now.”
“Honestly, 50% of the time, I love it, but the other half, I hate it.”
Should Formula 1 Design More Trophies Like The Gorilla Trophy?
As we have seen, the gorilla trophy has generated praise but also a lot of criticism. So, should Formula 1 design more trophies like that or limit itself to more “classic” designs?
Ultimately, it is up to F1 race organizers to decide what type of trophies they want to use to recognize race winners. Formula 1 has a long history of using various trophies, some of which have become iconic and well-known among fans and competitors, while others are more modest in their design.
After all, there is no specific image for the trophy, as traditionally, each Grand Prix has used some reference or aesthetic to its country, and there have been some other crazy and bizarre designs. Over the last few decades, sponsors have influenced trophy designs heavily, putting their company branding on the trophies and making them generic and boring, as there is no natural design element.
For us, that’s what Formula 1 should avoid, and focus on beautiful and original designs. Therefore, the gorilla trophy, although not everyone likes it, is appreciated for its originality and differentiation from the rest in a sport with more generic trophies.
The French Grand Prix trophy is a gorilla, as the design of the trophy was commissioned to the French artist Richard Orlinski, who was inspired by his most famous work, “Wild Kong,” which is about the renowned gorilla King Kong, thus creating a peculiar and original Formula 1 trophy.