The British Sunday Times newspaper has published its first Rich List for sports stars and with seven of the top ten coming from F1, it appears that it is still a very lucrative business despite the credit crunch.
Johnny Dumfries, a former Lotus team mate of Ayrton Senna and heir to one of Scotland’s oldest aristocratic families, is the best placed motor racing personality in third ahead of former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine (£80million), 1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter (£60million), who is in because he lives in the UK and Prodrive boss Dave Richards (£58million)
David Coulthard (£50million), Nigel Mansell (£50million) are also in the top ten along with Jenson Button (£43million), who is the best placed active driver.
It’s a bit of a bizarre list as there is no sign of multi-billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, who was an active team boss in the 1970s and 80s before becoming the sport’s commercial guru.
Wigan Athletic football team owner Dave Whelan (£190million), who made most of his money from a sports retail business is top of the list. Footballer David Beckham (£125million) and boxer Lennox Lewis (£95million) were the only non-motorsport personalities to make the top ten.
Dr Philip Beresford, compiler of the list, said: “Motor racing has several factors that combine to make its stars highly rewarded.
“There are big, often global television audiences and vast commercial interests at stake. And unlike football, you only need to pay one or two drivers per team – not 11 or more. For the best drivers that can make salaries and sponsorships huge.”
Formula 1 was well represented in the Young Sport Rich List, which includes athletes aged 30 and under, with Button coming out on top ahead of footballer Michael Owen (£40million) and McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton (£35million).
Because there are so many well paid footballers they feature strongly, but there are warnings today from Chris Powell, the president of the Professional Footballers’ Association, that the high level of wages for players cannot continue amid pressure from the competition authorities in the UK to make the price of SKY’s Sports TV package cheaper.
In F1, the picture is different as most of the TV deals are with free to air channels. Many are feeling the pinch from the decline in TV advertising revenues, but are still willing to pay a large fee for the F1 rights.
Meanwhile the Resource Restriction Agreement is set to greatly reduce the cost of competing for teams, and there was evidence last season of teams’ attempting to keep driver salaries under control by refusing to pay premiums when drivers were being traded ahead of the 2010 season.
Whether that stance can remain when most of the other ways a top team can spend money to stay ahead have been reduced, remains to be seen. If the differences between the cars is reduced, then it could be that the drivers will be even more highly rewarded in future.