Tiago Monteiro has been voted the driver of the year for 2017 by FIA World Touring Car Championship media.
The Portuguese was on course to capture his maiden WTCC crown with two wins, five podiums and 200 points from the opening 12 races only to suffer serious injury in a high-speed testing crash in September.
Not fit enough to return to action, the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver was helpless in preventing his title advantage from being eradicated and he placed eighth in the final standings.
But Monteiro’s performances prior to this accident struck a chord with a panel of WTCC journalists representing 18 countries who voted him ahead of title runner-up Norbert Michelisz and world champion Thed Björk. Monteiro received 10 votes, Michelisz seven and Björk five. Esteban Guerrieri and Nicky Catsburg were also recognised for their achievements in 2017.
Justifying his selection of Monteiro as WTCC driver of the year for 2017, Motorsport-Total.com’s Markus Lüttgens said: “He was the most consistent driver at the first six events. Without his test crash he would have been world champion.”
Andrew Abbott of Touringcars.net was in agreement. He said: “What we saw was enough to suggest that if it was not for his testing accident, he could have lifted the drivers’ title.”
Sergio Fonseca from Hoje Macau said simply: “He’d have been champion”, while Michael Bräutigam of Motorsport Aktuell said: “This was supposed to be his season, but just so much bad luck.”
András Lantos of WTCCBlog.hu backed Norbert Michelisz: “He was pushed out three times and was disqualified in China but he still had a very good chance to beat Thed in Qatar where the brake issue was just too much.”
Motorzaj.hu’s Szilvia Magyar explained why she voted for Thed Björk: “Not because he won the championship, but because he was the most consistent driver, showing the same, very balanced performance from the first race to the last one.”