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F1 driver’s wealth: It’s still a good game to be in
F1 driver’s wealth: It’s still a good game to be in
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 May 2010   |  6:07 pm GMT  |  61 comments

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.

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  1. marques de portago says:

    good for them. I hope in moto gp they don’t get to those figures, and stay more true to the roots of the sport.

  2. Matt says:

    Go Irvine!

    You have to like the guy, apart from the obvious he was a millionaire before he entered F1 – based off of property I believe.


    1. Andy C says:

      Yep. He spent a lot of time racing over in japan didn’t he I think from memory prior to f1.

      I always liked his straight talking.

      1. Matt says:

        He did yes, and I think his sister is his long term business partner / adviser.

        Shame he’s not more vocal on the sport now, but I guess with 80 mil in the bank sitting on his yacht doing……..

        Is more attractive.


      2. Cliff says:

        Eddie Irvine now has a show on Talksport tht goes out after each race. He’s still as vocal, even if it is to a limited audience!

  3. Red5 says:

    It’s certainly not as easy at it looks on the television. The journey is long, arduous and few make it to the top. And not all that do manage to stay at the top.

    Good to see Nigel in the Top 10. Read his biography and you’ll understand why talent alone is not enough. For sure the comedy mustache and Brummie accent didn’t help. In reality there was a very deep rooted commitment and perseverance required, some would call it clutching at straws. Colin Chapman and Enzo both saw his potential and for sure Nigel rightfully earned his moniker ‘il leone’.

    Jenson and Lewis recently gave an glimpse of the dedication required not just by the wannabe F1 driver but family and friends also. If you think that stars of F1 work only 2 hours every other weekend think again.

    Remember, there are only a select number of active drivers whereas the number of professional footballers globally wouldn’t fit into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    Thankfully, in this modern era safety has improved dramatically. There are not many sports that have had a posthumous World Champion. Ask Niki Lauda whether he feels he deserves the riches earned from his career.

    That is perhaps something David Beckhams of the world would find it hard to relate to.

  4. F1Novice says:

    Rain showers predicted for Sunday in Barcelona ! :)

  5. Nick H says:

    No wonder Irvine was happy to play Scumachers poodle at Ferrari for so long..it paid well!

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      If you can remember his comments at the time, he was anything but happy. He simply didn’t have a viable alternative.

      1. Robert Higginbotham says:

        He always seemed to be willing to tow the company line, until after his first victory. He made his “being hit on the head with a cricket bat” comment after he left Ferrari, which the media quoted out of context. He never said a great deal about Ferrari that was negative. As Schumacher pointed out in 1999, being no. 2 at Ferrari was better than being no.1 at most other teams. Irvine certainly would never have become the highest-paid employee of the Ford Motor Co without his Ferrari tenure, so all-in-all he did well out of his time at Ferrari.

  6. William Hilsman says:

    I don’t get paid that much, but my job doesn’t involve risking my life everyday

    1. Banjo says:

      Likewise, unfortunately it doesn’t involve driving F1 cars either.

  7. BiggusJimmus says:

    A bit misleading. The list would be more interesting if it included only money earned from sport. Would have loved to have seen a figure put on Bernie’s pile – oops, out of date, add another zero!
    Next I want to see journalism’s Rich List (Rupert doesn’t count – he’s an Australian and obviously a criminal).

  8. Howard Hughes says:

    This list has lots of holes in it – as James has pointed out; Bernie’s not in it, nor is Sir Frank, Patrick Head, Ron etc etc

    Yet the JJB guy is?

    How odd.

  9. Canadian F1 Fan says:

    It’s obscene any way you slice it.

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      You’re wrong. It’s not at all obscene. Unless you’re a communist, in which case, why are you commenting on an F1 site?

      1. Canadian F1 Fan says:


        That, has to be about the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

        PS The Village called….

  10. Paul says:

    I don’t beleive Eddie was a millionaire before F1 – he had a pretty working class upbringing and got into the property game after his f1 career was over. Glad to see he’s doing alright for himself still!

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      He was; he’s said so many times. It was from career earnings in Japan, in fact he took a pay cut to race with Jordan when he entered F1.

      1. FastGuy says:

        So he had a million or so in pre-F1 earnings…he’s listed at 80million now because of luxury rental properties he collected during his F1 days. That’s the story I read, anyway.

  11. F1fan says:

    is this list for only UK sports personalities?

    1. Robert Higginbotham says:


    2. Tim says:

      UK-based – hence the inclusion of Jody Scheckter, who made some of his money from an firearms training system and is now an organic farmer in Hampshire.

  12. RON says:

    It’s an elitist sport… if more people had the opportunity to get a test, they would beat all these average drivers with ease…

    Just proves the world is geared for the rich to get richer…

    1. James W says:

      I take it your glass is half empty.

    2. Banjo says:

      I disagree, the likes of Lewis Hamilton came from a very working class background.

    3. Robert McKay says:

      “All these average drivers”….what more can you say but LOL :D

    4. Amritraj says:

      I have to disagree with you. Most of the top drivers today have come from working-class backgrounds. Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Robert Kubica, and Michael Schumacher: all are from very very normal households.

      Their determination and focus are what has taken them to the top.

  13. Paul Kirk says:

    There are quite a few things in this world that I can’t understand, and drivers’ and sportsmens’ wages is one of them!

    1. alex says:

      Free market Economics ?

      Teams pay what they want to for a driver, the better ones are naturally more expensive, QED.

      On a happier note, it is now raining in Sunny Spain, with any luck the drizzle will hold on all week and they will have to really earn the money in Manuel’s hometown. Hopefully we may get treated to another display of Mr Hamiltons rather excellent wet Weather racing skills.

    2. Andy C says:

      It’s all about supply and demand. F1 is so popular, gets lots of viewing equals lots of money in f1 and lots of potential money for drivers and teams.

      Same with football and golf recently.

    3. Momo says:

      Study some basic economics.

      1. Paul Kirk says:

        Thanks Guys, but I still don’t understand/comprehend! And Momo, I’d far rather study vehicle dynamics and aerodynamics and engine developement etc., than boreing old economics.

      2. FastGuy says:

        How about “because they’re risking their lives”?
        Sure, safety is much, much improved over the years, but that threat is still there. Gotta count for something.
        As for stick and ball sports, word got out how much the owners were making, and the players unionized and demanded and got a nice percentage of the profits. (This is horribly simplified, but the general idea works). It used to be a secret what owners were making; as recently as the 1960′s baseball players might make $10-$12,000 a year, and have to drive a cab in the off-season. “Free agency” lawsuits broke that open in baseball, and other sports soon followed.

  14. JohnBt says:

    F1 is a highly professional job where only a handful are chosen. The best part is you don’t have to be a WDC and still be millionaires. But you can lose millions too before arriving in F1. God knows how many were left broke.

  15. russ parkin says:

    how has irvine earned so much? that is insane. what dont i know about him?

    1. Andy C says:

      He drove over in japan before f1 and I understood did well out of that. He was at Ferrari on very good money when ms was there.

    2. murray says:

      He was interviewed by the US mag “Racer” the year after he retired. He was living large in Florida and consolidating his investments in property development.

      1. Andy Fov says:

        Doesn’t look like he got too badly burnt in the sub prime bubble. Knowing Irv he’s have seen it coming and hedged against it. He might not be the factest racer ever, but he’s one of the shrewdest.

        I seem to remember reading about him supplementing his F1 income with a little Lear Jet rental sideline too.

  16. Baktru says:

    On a different note, I’ve been wondering lately… Why don’t the teams actually patent their technological innovations? It’s common practice in quite a few industries but I’ve never heard of anyone patenting any F1 technology. I’m pretty sure much of it would be though. A patent on a system with an interruptible airduct through the cockpit to disrupt the airflow over the upper rear downforce generating aerodynamical element anyone?

    1. Banjo says:

      I’ve wondered this often too. If McLaren had patented the Carbon Chasis back in the day, they’d have dominated racing every since! Is there something in the ‘terms and conditions’ of them being allowed to race?

  17. Calum says:

    Where’s Ron?

  18. Ken Staveley says:

    I don’t think that Johnie Dumfries’s fortune came from F1. As anyone who sees his little pad on the Isle of Bute will realise that he and his family were rich before motor racing.

    1. Robert Higginbotham says:

      He was known as Earl Johnny Dumfries during his season at Lotus – I think that says it all!

  19. chris green says:

    bit off topic but i just read this on autosport:

    Test driver Giancarlo Fisichella tried out the latest iteration of Ferrari’s blown rear wing during an aerodynamic test at Vairano last week

    i thought there was a testing ban.
    What’s the story James

    1. Stevie P says:

      “Ferrari’s Vairano test was part of the four days of aerodynamic testing allowed in the testing agreement, as defined by the 12 Formula One teams” – from the official F1 site.

      It was straight-line testing (perfect for an f-duct test or whatever it’s called), which all the teams can do if they wish, albeit restricted to a certain number of days… I think it’s that or wind-tunnel testing, upto a max of 4 days. But someone with more insight or info should\will confirm that… I hope.

    2. leespurs76 says:

      you are allowed a certain number of straight line testing days throughout the season… i believe its 6 days

    3. Adam Jackson says:

      The teams are allowed 4 aero straight line tests per season

    4. dungaric says:

      there is an agreement in place 4 the teams to conduct aerodynamic test on their cars 4 times in a year.

  20. Buck61 says:

    Compare these salaries to that of actors. These people receive peanuts compared to the entertainment factor they provide.

  21. dungaric says:

    l believe the like of lewis hamilton is richer than the said 35m,if u take into account his endorsement from reebok,santander,vodafone,johnnie walker.e.t.c.also what about ron and bennie,sir frank,eddie jordan.

  22. Adam Jackson says:

    Regarding comments about personalities that aren’t on the list. You only get entered in it if you bring your accounts forward proving your wealth. I suppose some don’t feel the need to broadcast their numbers on the world!

  23. Trent says:

    It’s a shame that it truly is a sport for a privileged few. I love F1, but I must admit at times the F1 environment doesn’t sit well with me.

    OK I don’t want to get too deep here, but are F1 people GOOD people? Are they people we should idolise? It seems so many are more interested in wealth and power than doing anything constructive for humanity. The thing is, with their riches and their profile, they really COULD do something.

    It’s also sad that a typical kid from a typical family in England or Australia is going to struggle to even get to an F1 race. They might love the sport, might have followed it for years, but it’s a sport for the upper class. Kids – please watch on TV but just so you know, if you’re not rich Bernie doesn’t want you at an F1 race.

    James, I can only think that some days you must think you have the best job in the world; and others, you must wonder if there’s something beyond the shallow, materialistic and greedy world of F1.

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      Trent, in NZ we call it “up themselves”. And to a large extent I agree with you!

  24. Sam says:

    It’s funny if you think about it. Those who drive racing cars get paid like 1million per week and those who run a country get paid like less than 100,000 a year. I am talking about British PM of course.

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      He gets paid £132923, plus an additional salary of £64766 as a member of parliament, and our current MP is overpaid by around 95%!

  25. Kedar says:

    I would also like to know how many of the drivers got into the sport just for Money, and how many of these actually succeeded making money

    1. Tim says:

      You’re essentially asking the age old question – how do you make a small fortune in motor racing? Answer: start with a large one.

  26. ian says:

    bernie is not mentioned because he wasn’t a driver ( although in fact i think he did drive in F3 ? ). David Richards was a rally co pilot i think.

  27. john g says:

    where is patrick o’nally in the list i wonder…

  28. The balance . . says:

    How much is Michael Schumacher worth?



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