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How much does an F1 driver earn?
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Aug 2010   |  11:40 am GMT  |  167 comments

A little while ago I was contacted by Sports Illustrated magazine to help them out with information for an article they were preparing on F1.

One of the things they were interested in was the drivers’ salaries and how they have been affected by the financial crisis of the last two years.

This isn’t something I’ve really bothered with much in the past, but I did some asking around among people in F1 whose job it is to know this kind of information and I found it quite interesting. What we have here is by no means exhaustive and is based on best estimates of agents, managers and team figures. But it gives you a flavour.

Hamilton's deal was done at the peak in 2007 (Darren Heath)


As a rule, F1 drivers’ income is 70% retainer and 30% bonus, based on podiums, wins and championship position. Apparently Red Bull is the exception with 40% retainer and 60% bonus, which might partly explain why the driver who doesn’t win looks pretty down!

When it comes to money, it seems that like everything else, the team strives to give Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber equal treatment – they get around €3.5 million each in retainer and so could more than double that on current trends of results this season. Webber has won four races and leads the championship, while Vettel has won twice and is well within striking distance in the title race. But from my experience of the pair, I don’t think money is that strong a motivation. I think they are both highly motivated to win races and clinch the title with this exceptional car.

Towards the end of last season there was quite a bit of driver movement and the teams were trying hard to drive down the cost of retainers. It took place against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and the withdrawal of big spenders Toyota and BMW from the sport. The teams agreed a Resource Restriction Agreement, which does not include driver salaries or marketing, but you could tell that they were keen to get a grip on high retainers.

The driver’s agents were sharing information so that they didn’t get the wool pulled over their eyes. They and their clients were however forced to accept that retainers had to come down as part of a wider cost cutting programme, which has seen costs slashed in F1.

Lewis Hamilton was lucky to escape this squeeze, as his five year deal was signed at the peak of the economic cycle in Autumn 2007, after his sensational debut season. The total value of his contract is understood to be €50 million. He also has endorsements with Bombardier jets and Reebok totalling around €3 mill per year. So he could be described as ‘recession proof’.

Another big earner is obviously Fernando Alonso – he is quite difficult to assess as it’s hard to say how much of his retainer is paid by Ferrari and how much by Santander. The best estimates of the driver agents out there puts him on between €12m to 15m per season.

Felipe Massa has just renewed his Ferrari contract for two more seasons starting in 2011. His current three year deal was struck at the peak in 2007 and is a whopping €12 mill a year. I’m not sure whether he’s been able to keep it at that level, it may well be that he’s had to accept the new financial picture, especially in light of his performances.

Jenson Button moved to McLaren as world champion from Brawn for several reasons, which had to do with all kinds of things, including a dispute over a chassis. He is paid €8 million a year by McLaren – this is an increase on the approx €3 mill he received last year from Brawn but he was on around €7-8m in the Honda days.

Still one of the drivers collecting the most from an F1 team is Kimi Raikkonen, even though he’s not racing in F1 any more. His severance package from Ferrari for 2010 was €19 million, with a clause that if he found other employment the income would be offset. He is retained by Red Bull/Citroen at around €10m per year, so Ferrari pays €9 million. In the good old days Raikkonen was earning over €30 million a year from Ferrari. One wonders how long it will be before we see those kinds of salaries again. This is three times more than the most highly paid footballer.

Michael Schumacher is hard to assess, as Mercedes insist that he is not being paid the enormous sums he got in the Ferrari days, which was in excess of €25 million. His presence in the team has helped them to attract sponsors, so it’s unlikely he will be earning less than €10 million.

Most of the top seats are already confirmed for next year so there are likely to be very few major driver negotiations this year. It’s a quiet year for big driver deals.

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1

was just wonering if any F1 drivers pay taxes like normal people do in the uk. to me it feels a bit wrong that these sport stars can earn in excess of 10 million a year yet never pay tax on there earnings yet a factory worker in liverpool who gets paid £5 an hour still has 20% taken from them in tax. i know people will say that the drivers live in monaco/swiss or another tax haven yet when they win a grand prix its not the monaco or swiss anthem thats played and certainly not the monaco/swiss flag that gets raised for them. they seem happy to be British when they are winning but not when they are earning. proud to be british but not proud enought to pay taxes like every other brit, well almost every other.

2

how do people get a job in f1

3
Javier Menor de las Casas

Business Book GP

F.Alonso (Ferrari) 30 millones de euros

L.Hamilton (McLaren) 16 millones de euros

F.Massa (Ferrari) 14 millones de euros

J.Button (McLaren) 9 millones de euros

M.Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 8 millones de euros

N.Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 8 millones de euros

R.Kubica (Renault) 7,5 millones de euros

R.Barrichello (Williams) 5,5 millones de euros

M.Webber (Red Bull) 4,2 millones de euros

J.Trulli (Lotus) 3 millones de euros

S.Vettel (Red Bull) 2 millones de euros

H.Kovalainen (Lotus) 2 millones de euros

T.Glock (Virgin) 1 millón de euros

N.Hulkenberg (Williams) 700.000 euros

P.Martínez de la Rosa (Sauber) 500.000 euros

K.Kobayashi (Sauber) 500.000 euros

V.Petrov (Renault) 400.000 euros

S.Buemi (Toro Rosso) 400.000 euros

J.Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 400.000 euros

A.Sutil (Force India) 200.000 euros

V.Liuzzi (Force India) 200.000 euros

L.Di Grassi (Virgin) 200.000 euros

B.Senna (Hispania) 150.000 euros

K.Chandhok (Hispania) 100.000 euros

4

The keyword here is ‘estimates’. People, please pay more attention to that.

5

I doubt Kimi is that worried about his salary, he has made so much money and achieved so much success he has nothing left to prove. It is far more likely that he moved to rally because he could spend more time doing what he enjoyed and less time doing things like PR which he didn’t enjoy.

6

spike thanks for the info. Kimi’s deals have been incredible right from the off. His guys are certainly very good. I really felt for Kimi last year in that he was getting a lot of heat in a car that was just poor. I have always been of the opinion that the car and the backroom staff get nowhere the credit deserved and the drivers get way too much. A lot of it is the car…look at Schuey now, Alonso in the Renault and Webber and Vettel in a good car this year. I think the percaentages between the drivers in ability are really quite small but the big elephant in the room and intangiable is the car that is put beneath them. I really hope Kimi comes back to make things interesting…

7

I agree with you there mate. Which is why one of the drivers that has impressed me the most this year is Kobayashi. If he doesnt get a good seat next year I am going to be seriously pissed.

8

Correct,

at least the field is evening out by having someone else take the spoils in car development (Red Bull) Imagine what it will be like once you get competitive drivers in competitive cars. Kimi has to be part of that mix. The Red Bull guys at each others throats is great entertainment. More than that, it is the transparency forced on corporate sponsors (Ferrari) when with all things being equal, a decision is forced and we are all there to see it. Alonso ‘s rant on Massa was crude, but we got to see how it really works under the covers. Horner has got some serious issues coming his way in a guy that is not going to shut up (webber)and trying to push an agenda from Austira whilst giving an assemblence of control. Fascinating. Kimi would add more to the drama no matter where he goes!!! Kobayashi is turning all logic on its head, he is for real!! he is going to have to get a ride with someone but I think the issue will be can he play nice with others. No elite driver is going to want him around constantly pushing-unless there is predetermined agreement at team level as to whats going to happen with team orders (read Ferrari)

9

I went to Alton Towers yesterday and went on a ride that boasted in went 0-60 in 2 seconds.

As I understand it, that’s a similar level to an F1 car … except they’re not on rails and are racing each other! Certainly gave me a new perspective.

Not convinced it makes them worth the money … but it is mind blowing what they do.

10

The heck with the drivers make. How much do the Journo’s and Commentators make? haha

11

It does seem that F1 drivers’ salaries have gone down since the heyday of Schumi at Ferrari when he was getting 30 million+ dollars a year in retainer. I think Kimi benefited from that as well, as for many years he was considered to be the top rival to MS (particularly when first hired by Ferrari to replace MS).

Part of the reason why drivers’ salaries are more sensitive to market forces is they are not unionised. Driver’s agents sharing information is probably the closest thing to unionisation they have ever tried.

Most professional team sports in the U.S. are unionised. They have even had work stoppages. That enables NBA players for example to earn $20 million+ a year. And the lowest paid NBA player sitting on the bench makes more than a million $ a year.

12

NBA’s Top 20 Player Salaries (09-10)
Player Team $(million)

1. Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets ~ 23.4
2. Kobe Bryant LA Lakers ~ 23.2
3. Jermaine O’Neal Miami Heat ~ 22.8
4. Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs ~ 22.2
5. Shaquille O’Neal Cleveland Cavaliers ~ 20

Baseball Top 3
1. Alex Rodriguez, $ 33,000,000
2. CC Sabathia $ 24,285,714
3. Derek Jeter, $ 22,600,000

13

No wonder they all want to drive for Ferrari!

14

I can see why no one wants Kimi, 1 championship and he wants to be paid like he has won 7. Redbull looks like they have the correct structure in place and this would be why Webber will only sign 1 year contracts at the momment.

15

The Robertsons does all of the talking for Kimi when it comes to money deals. He was going to join McLaren for less money this year and would have taken a hefty pay cut but wouldnt sell himself for peanuts of course. But then the Citroen/Red Bull opportunity opened up and he went for that. Rally dream + full severance from Ferrari. No arguing there.

16

I love Kimi, his ability to stay quiet yet blow everyone away in the salary stakes is fantastic. His exit from Ferrari is the stuff dreams are made of, who is his agent?. That was a hell of a deal. Of course this presupposes that Kimi is all about the cash. I really don’t think he is. That finnish mentality certainly has people second guessing his character, motive and agenda. I think he is just a racer that got a dog of a car last year. If the situation was right does it preempt a return to F1 for him??

17

His managers are the legendary Robertsons. So blame them for all the money 🙂 They are the true architects behind his awesome deals ever since he got into F1 and now WRC.

If there is a seat open in a winning car in 2012, Im sure Kimi will give it some good thought. Especially if he has had his fill of rallying then. 2011 is marked for rally though.

18

According to some information in the German press, Red Bull offers Vettel the chance to extend his contract to 2015, with a $2 million yearly raise, from$18 million in 2013 to $22 million in the last year of contract.

More than this, it is rumored that the new deal could include a 3-year contract extension clause, meaning that Vettel would stay at Red Bull until 2018, if he accepts the new offer.

19

James,

Thanks for this – very interesting reading.

Perhaps my brain/mentality works differently to other people – but I’ve never personally understood how Formula One drivers can walk away from potential championship winning cars, purely on a difference of opinion over ‘more money than you can possibly need’ against ‘more money than you can possibly need, plus a bit more’.

They spend so many years struggling in the junior series – and finally get that amazing, unique break to be a Formula One driver, and not only that, one of the elite to have competitive cars – and then walk away to America “due to circumstance beyond my control” or end up driving for Arrows.

I can never understand it.

Mansell could, in my view, have picked up at least one more title (Prost couldn’t work the clutch or get the best of the requirements of the Williams active ride in 1993) – and yet, Mansell (who had sat in corrosive fuel and suffered chemical burns to get an F1 drive at the start of his career) walked away from a championship winning car over money. If you believe what the Williams team have said in the past, Damon did much the same in 1996.

I’d always question at what point in the career does the switch and motivation go from wanting to win… to wanting to earn vast sums of money – and… how does driver management remuneration feature in that process?

As I say at the beginning – perhaps I have a strange view of the World, but I just can’t understand how you can finally be in a position to win a Formula One World Championship, and yet walk away from that over differences in salary numbers that, in the real world, are actually pretty meaningless.

20

Organisational theory suggests that money as a motivating factor is actually far lower than most people would expect. It also tends to provide diminishing returns, i.e. offer an F1 driver a £1m bonus and he might score a few more points but he’s unlikely to score ten times that many if you offer £10m.

Driver salaries often get conflated with status and standing within a team and I suspect the latter two are generally more important. Most top drivers demand a large salary – not because money is their main motivator, but as a proxy for their status in the sport and their personal standing in the team, especially relative to other drivers.

The Nigel Mansell/Williams saga in 1992 is a case in point. As you say, Mansell was a highly motivated competitor who put himself through many hardships in his career to get to the top – he remortgaged his house to pay for an F3 drive and later drove with various injuries. So why di he walk away from a near-certain second title at the end of 1992, seemingly because Williams wouldn’t satisfy his pay demands?

Consider the context. Mansell’s former Ferrari team mate Alain Prost had signed for Williams earlier in the year and taken up a fair chunk of the team’s driver budget. When Nigel wrapped up his championship he expected a new deal comensurate with his new status – and certainly on a level with Prost’s. But Williams had long pursued a policy of investing in their cars, not drivers’ egos, baulked at Mansell’s demands. Bearing in mind that Ayrton Senna had offered to drive for Williams for nothing, Williams weren’t exactly desperate for drivers.

In the end, Mansell needed to feel that he had the same standing as Prost within Williams and accepting a much lower salary was not compatible with that need. Ultimately, it was a dispute over status not money. Nigel took a pay cut to go to CART, where he put in some stunning performances until his equipment became uncompetitive.

21

You are right.

Another case is (possibly) Kimi Räikkönen negotiating with McLaren in 2009 for a 2010 drive.

In my opinion he cannot accept an offer which is not on-par with what Lewis Hamilton is getting. If the offer is substantially less than what Hamilton is getting and Kimi would accept it then it would place him below Hamilton in team hierarchy based on salary. And that in my opinion should not happen.

I have no idea what happened there with Kimi and McLaren but this is one point that should be considered as a possible reason for failure between Kimi and McLaren to reach an agreement – he could not accept being considered worth less than Hamilton and therefore could not accept any contract which would imply he is worth less than Hamilton.

22

I must add that in this point too the main thing would not be money but being on-par with the other driver in the team in terms of salary.

23

Incredible post. I was going to say essentially the same thing, but you did it much better. Thank you.

24

Good point. Williams have always valued a wdc title less than the drivers perception.

Mansell, hill etc.

Maybe why they’re still in business 🙂

25

James,

I agree. It seems that drivers want recognition more than anything else.

I believe the negotiations that D Hill had with Williams were rather more complex than the revelations from the team suggest. But Walkinshaw, I believe, offered him substantially more than FW was prepared to do and I don’t think Hill felt he had many more years left in the sport.

Perhaps they both made misjudgements: Hill thought he had another chance of winning and TWR thought Hill gave him a chance of gaining sponsorship. If so, they were both way off.

He seemed a different driver in the Arrows, more relaxed, not the normal state of a TWR driver.

The impression I got was that he wanted to drive in a team that Villeneuve did not. The lack of mind games?

But FW and PH do have strange attitudes to drivers. Perhaps both Hill and Mansell didn’t want to work in an environment where they were viewed as a bolt-on accessory? If the WDC doesn’t give your the ability to choose what’s the point of winning?

26

Hill was booted out of Williams, the Arrows deal was the best deal he could land in the circumstances

27

I seem to remember Senna offering his services to Williams for nothing,how times have changed eh?

28

Let’s not forget that Senna came from a very wealthy family and was rumored to be worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death.

29

Thats quite true,my point was to say a driver should not just go where they pay the most,Senna was already an established driver and could have asked for a considerable salary,but its the car he wanted to drive above anything else.

30

James,

I’m always interested to see the Ferrari salaries.

They have for quite some time paid big retainers on drivers. Were Eddie Irvine and Rubens on £10m plus when at Ferrari?

Similarly I remember hearing that Gerhard and Jean earned big money (even when Ferrari were not winning).

At the end of the day, you pay what you want to pay your drivers dont you.

For me, they are worth what someone is willing to pay them (same as football, basketball). If the media generated interest in the sports are high, the revenues are high, and you go out to get hold of the best you can.

31

Full list of F1 2009 driver salaries:

1. Kimi Raikkonen $45m

2. Lewis Hamilton $18m

3. Fernando Alonso $15m

4. Nico Rosberg $8.5m

5. Felipe Massa $8m

6. Jarno Trulli $6.5m

7. Sebastian Vettel $6m

8. Mark Webber $5.5m

9. Jenson Button $5m

10. Robert Kubica $4.5m

11. Heikki Kovalainen $3.5m

12. Nick Heidfeld $2.8m

13. Timo Glock $2m

14. Giancarlo Fisichella $1.5m

15. Sébastien Buemi $1.5m

16. Rubens Barrichello $1m

17. Jaime Alguersuari $0.5m

18. Vitantonio Liuzzi $Nil

19. Adrian Sutil $Nil

20. Romain Grosjean $Nil

21. Kazuki Nakajima $Nil

32

Source?

33

wildrumorsandanecdotes.net,.. Or some similar such ultra reliable source I expect. 🙂

35

Probably this:

http://www.crash.net/f1/news/154093/1/f1_2009_driver_salaries_revealed.html

I can’t asses how reliable it is…

36

It would be nice to get a run down on much the support staff gets paid in F1. Not the team managers and such, but the actual support staff like mechanics (at the race track and back at the factory), engineers at the factory, etc.

37

I thought Kimi only got the Citroen drive thanks to Red Bull, so I can’t imagine Citroen paying him that much (especially as he still has a nice income from Ferrari).

38

Hey why are my comments are being filtered out? My posts aren’t even mildly provocative!

39

You say they are not motivated by money, James, but I would suggest it would be more accurate to say that their main motivation is not money. Given how protracted the negotiations can be, it must be high on their to do list.

#2: screw team for everything I can get out of it.

Over the years is has been evident that for some drivers money has seemed to be all but the sole motivation. One thinks of Eddie Irvine.

I was sitting at Bridge the day Schumacher broke his legs at Stowe. In the hiatus that followed, and when it was apparent that his injuries were serious, one Irish fan in Ferrari corporate gear reckoned that it was; ‘Eddie’s chance at last to show what he’s capable of.’

This started a conversation in the group and our conclusion was that Eddie would be terrified as the last thing he wanted was to actually win the WDC and give people expectations of him. If each day you do a little more than is expected of your, soon more will be expected of you.

Harsh, but the only dissenter was the lass whose comments had initiated the conversation. She said time would show us who was right. And we all were.

I had an interesting chat with a somewhat sozzled ex Brabham mechanic who was of the opinion that Nelson Piquet’s motivator was money. He reckoned that during the seasons when he had #1 on his car he just cruised around, leaving his mechanics and team to work into the night to try and find out what was wrong with the car.

I’ve no idea as to whether this is true or not but the chap was quite bitter about the way he felt he’d been treated by a driver the ‘all but worshipped’. It seemed he had an expensive lifestyle which included a 100m yacht. Nice.

What is true is that Piquet kept his most inspired driving for when he was in the Benetton on a money for points basis.

Given how much they pay mechanics, these huge sums for drivers seem to verge on the obscene.

Many drivers have said over the years that they would driver for free for some teams. Easy to say but, evidently, difficult to do as so few of them choose this option.

Still good luck to them. If the teams are willing to pay these sums then the drivers would be idiotic to refuse.

40

Interesting article as always James. As most people have stated i’d be interested in what the drivers earn lower down the grid. I seem to remember a f1 driver arriving in the paddock in a Fiat Cinquecento a few years ago!

For those wondering about that Button dispute with Brawn, google ‘Jenson Button sues Mercedes’.

41

I obtained a copy of Williams 2002 accounts from Companies House, and they listed drivers’ earning and expenses as £9,414,014. The wages bill for the other 452 employees came to £23,699,403, and the two directors earned £3,353,376 including pension costs.

These were the most detailed set of accounts I’ve ever seen for an F1 team (possibly filed by mistake), and list the costs of everything from stationery and advertising, to sponsorship income and an exact figure for prize money.

If you want an insight into the financial workings of an F1 team, then I’d highly recommend buying a copy – it only cost a £1.

42

The chassis issue was that he was promised the car he won the title in but then brawn backed out of it.

The pay drivers I believe are just that they pay to drive at the weekend through sponsorship money. And live of prize money if their lucky

43

I wish I was an F1 driver!! WOW!

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