Who does not envy Formula 1 drivers? Bravery, incredible ability, physical superiority and gold-plated charm make the likes of Lewis Hamilton superstars.
They are paid to put their lives on the line in death machines for our entertainment. Their paychecks are often as amazing as the top speeds on the street circuit.
F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport for prestige, but other series are just as demanding. Championships like NASCAR and IndyCar require similar levels of bravery and craftsmanship, but how do their drivers’ lifestyle measure up to the F1 stars?
Based on estimates for the 2022 season, let’s compare the pay package a talented Formula 1, IndyCar or NASCAR racer can expect.
Formula 1 salary – $11.4m average (£9.4m)
Formula 1 drivers are the highest-paid athletes in motorsport, earning an average of $11.4m across all 20 drivers in the 2022 grid – a figure set to drop slightly this year with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo stepping down.
But that number omits contractual bonuses and the many lucrative sponsorship contracts each driver receives per year.
It was back-to-back world champion Max Verstappen Last year’s highest-paid F1 starThe Dutchman reportedly earned $60 million from his deal with Red Bull including $20 million in bonuses.
Verstappen has signed an unprecedented six-year extension with the Austrian team that guarantees his F1 seat until 2028 and leads him into a world where Lewis Hamilton has never before gained steam.
The seven-times Hertfordshire-born champion’s starting salary is believed to be higher than Verstappen’s $55m, but with no race wins in 2022, the Dutchman has even managed to eclipse his great rival in finances.
At the low level, the first Chinese F1 driver Guanyu Zhou, Nicolas Latifi and Mick Schumacher earned $1 million while Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda earned $750,000.
Verstappen was among the athletes who disagreed with the implementation of a cap on drivers’ salaries within the broader budget cap introduced for the 2022 season. There is no cap in place at the moment, but the FIA could look into it in the future.
F1’s No. 1 told the press in June: “I think nobody really knows where it’s going, but from my side, it’s completely wrong.”
“I think at the moment F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM. [Formula One Management].
“Everyone benefits, so why should drivers be capped, with their intellectual property rights and all? We’re actually making the show and putting our lives at risk, because in the end we do. So to me, that’s completely wrong.”
F1’s top five earners in 2022 are reported at a glance:
Max Verstappen – $60 million
Lewis Hamilton – $55 million
Fernando Alonso – $30 million
Sergio Perez – $26 million
Charles Leclerc – $23 million
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NASCAR salary – $4.5m average (£3.7m)
Although higher-paid stars like Kyle Busch earn a higher salary than Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, drivers heading to the back of the NASCAR grid can’t expect to earn a salary in the F1 world.
NASCAR is a staple of the unique sporting culture of the United States, with a proud all-American history. It is the youngest of the major sports in the United States, after billion dollar industries NFL, NHL and NBA.
Given that the series lacks the global reach of F1 – aside from rare breakout moments like Ross Chastain’s Awesome Ride On The Wall – And it is hardly recognized in some US states, still a lot of money to go around.
NASCAR is contested by twice as many drivers on the F1 grid, including some part-time competitors who earn well under $1 million.
However, all of NASCAR’s top five winners answer over $9 million with $16.9 million from two-time champion Busch.
He is joined by Busch Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin ($13.1) and Martin Truex Jr. ($10.4 million) among the top four money-makers.
NASCAR’s top five employers in 2022 reported at a glance:
Kyle Bush – $16.9 million
Denny Hamlin – $13.1 million
Kevin Harvick – $10.9 million
Martin Truex Jr. – $10.4 million
Brad Keselowski – $9.4 million
[Source: Flow Racers]
IndyCar – $750,000 average (£616,000)
While Formula 1 stars like Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Daniil Kvyat have dabbled in NASCAR, the more popular alternative is IndyCar.
The former F1 star earns the biggest salary in IndyCar now, too. Marcus Ericsson, who has had four unremarkable F1 seasons with Caterham and Sauber and triumphed at the Indy 500 in 2022, has netted $3.1 million in the North American series.
Although IndyCar’s popularity has been on the rise in the past decade – while NASCAR viewership declined in 2010 only to bulk up since 2020 – it still dwarfs the stock racing series on all major metrics.
IndyCar offers a higher minimum wage than NASCAR, with its least expensive drivers earning $300,000 annually compared to its competitors’ $200,000.
Only two drivers make six IndyCar figures, with 23-year-old Arrow McLaren star Pato O’Ward taking home $1 million. Scott Dixon ($707,000), Felix Rosenqvist ($570,500) and $569,600) complete the top five earners.
IndyCar’s top five employers in 2022 are reported at a glance:
Marcus Ericsson – $3.1 million
Patou Award – $1 million
Scott Dixon – $707,000
Felix Rosenqvist – $570,500
Alex Ballou – $569,600
[Source: Flow Racers]