Pictured above: Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull’s young champion is unbeatable at the bank, too, with an estimated $60 million in salary and bonus this year.
Max Verstappen already passed Lewis Hamilton on the track, winning last season’s Formula 1 drivers’ championship in a nail biter of a finale. Now, with a second straight title sewn up weeks ago, Red Bull Racing’s 25-year-old star is outpacing his Mercedes rival in the financial race, too.
Verstappen is F1’s highest-paid driver for 2022 with a pretax total of $60 million from his salary and bonuses, according to Forbes estimates. Hamilton, who has been the series’ top-earning driver in Forbes’ athlete rankings every year since 2013, sinks to second with an estimated $55 million.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, the last driver to finish above Hamilton on the earnings leaderboard, comes in at No. 3 this year with an estimated $30 million, followed by Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez ($26 million) and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ($23 million).
In all, Formula 1’s ten highest-paid drivers are collecting an estimated $264 million, a 25% increase from 2021’s projections, which were generated during the season.
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Endorsement earnings are excluded from this ranking, in part because Formula 1 offers few marketing opportunities relative to, say, tennis or the NBA. Most drivers devote little attention to deals outside of the appearances they’re required to make for their teams and their teams’ sponsors, and only a handful are believed to rake in more than $1 million, with Hamilton’s income off the track pegged at $8 million and Verstappen’s at $2 million for Forbes’ 2022 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
Even so, Formula 1’s star drivers have reason to believe their paydays will keep rising, and it’s not just that the series is growing. F1’s new budget cap, introduced last season, is set to limit teams’ spending in key areas to $135 million next year, forcing Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull to contort their budgets from the days when they could spend $300 million or even $400 million unchecked. But while they have had to reduce their design and research expenditures, driver pay is excluded from the cost-cap calculation, giving deep-pocketed team owners one line item they can continue to throw cash at. Industry insiders expect the search for a competitive advantage within the new model will send driver pay soaring over the next few years.
So while Verstappen is finally in the earnings driver seat, this is no time to take his foot off the gas.
FORMULA 1’S HIGHEST-PAID DRIVERS FOR 2022
#1 • $60M
Team: Red Bull Racing | Nationality: Netherlands | Age: 25
Salary: $40M | Bonuses: $20M
Verstappen, who signed a lucrative new contract before the season, finishes 2022 with 15 race wins—including a victory in Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi—setting an F1 record and piling up a 146-point lead in the driver standings. That helped Red Bull claim its first constructors’ championship since 2013 and end Mercedes’ eight-year streak.
#2 • $55M
Team: Mercedes | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 37
Salary: $55M | Bonuses: $0
Hamilton, who won four straight drivers’ championships from 2017 to 2020 and barely missed a fifth last year, endured a rough 2022, dropping to sixth in the standings and finishing without a race win for the first time in his 16-year Formula 1 career. His contract runs through next season, and he indicated this fall that he expects to sign a new multi-year deal with Mercedes, tamping down speculation that he might retire. Whenever he decides to walk away, he will have plenty to keep him busy. He’s the founder of an off-road-racing team called X44 in the Extreme E series, he has a small stake in the NFL’s Denver Broncos, and he recently launched a film and TV production company called Dawn Apollo Films.
#3 • $30M
Team: Alpine | Nationality: Spain | Age: 41
Salary: $30M | Bonuses: $0
Alonso landed in ninth place in the driver standings in his second season with Alpine after two years away from the sport, but the hugely popular Spaniard will jump to Aston Martin for the 2023 season to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel. Alonso was set to get his first test session with his new team in Abu Dhabi after Sunday’s season finale.
#4 • $26M
Team: Red Bull Racing | Nationality: Mexico | Age: 32
Salary: $10M | Bonuses: $16M
Pérez entered the season finale tied for second in the points race with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but Leclerc edged him for second in Abu Dhabi and a three-point lead on the season, denying Red Bull a 1-2 finish in the driver standings. His strong season was also overshadowed by a kerfuffle with his teammate Max Verstappen in the penultimate race, last week’s São Paulo Grand Prix. After Verstappen refused a Red Bull team order to let Pérez pass him, Pérez, in his second season with Red Bull, responded over the radio that “it shows who he really is.” Pérez signed a two-year extension with the team in May.
#5 • $23M
Team: Ferrari | Nationality: Monaco | Age: 25
Salary: $12M | Bonuses: $11M
Leclerc won two of the season’s first three races and ended up second in the standings after a dogfight with Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez. He is signed through 2026, and Ferrari chairman John Elkann has publicly said the team should be able to capture a title by then, but Leclerc seems to have a shorter time frame in mind. “I am very impatient,” he recently told Motorsport.com. “I will prepare and do everything possible to be world champion in 2023.”
#6(t) • $17M
Team: Aston Martin | Nationality: Germany | Age: 35
Salary: $15M | Bonuses: $2M
Vettel, a four-time series champion, is retiring after 16 years in Formula 1. He hasn’t won a race since 2019 but leaves the sport with 53 career victories, the third-best mark in history, after Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91).
#6(t) • $17M
Team: McLaren | Nationality: Australia | Age: 33
Salary: $15M | Bonuses: $2M
Ricciardo was signed with McLaren through 2023, but the team terminated his contract in August, leaving him without a ride heading into the offseason. One rumored possibility is that he could become a reserve driver for Mercedes or Red Bull. Ricciardo, a breakout star on the Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive, is reportedly working with Hulu to develop an F1-focused scripted series.
#8 • $15M
Team: Ferrari | Nationality: Spain | Age: 28
Salary: $8M | Bonuses: $7M
Sainz wound up sinking to fifth in the driver standings, but his strong start to the season helped him secure a two-year contract extension in April, keeping him at Ferrari through 2024. He also notched his first career win, at the British Grand Prix in July.
#9 • $11M
Team: McLaren | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 23
Salary: $5M | Bonuses: $6M
Norris took a step forward in 2021, claiming his first pole as well as four podium finishes, and McLaren rewarded him with a contract extension through 2025. He dropped back to seventh in the standings in 2022 but is still considered an exciting young talent heading into next season, when he will be paired with 21-year-old Oscar Piastri at McLaren.
#10 • $10M
Team: Mercedes | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 24
Salary: $3M | Bonuses: $7M
Russell impressed in his debut season with Mercedes, claiming his maiden pole position in July and his first win in São Paulo last week. That helped him finish above his legendary teammate Lewis Hamilton in the season-long standings, at No. 4.
With few Formula 1 driver salaries publicly available, Forbes generated its on-track compensation estimates in collaboration with Forbes.com contributor Caroline Reid of the data firm Formula Money. The estimates are based on financial documents, legal filings and press leaks as well as conversations with industry insiders and are rounded to the nearest million. Drivers typically receive a base salary plus bonuses for points scored or for race or championship wins, with the amount depending on the size of the team and the experience of the driver. Off-track compensation, including endorsements, is not included in this ranking. Forbes does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees.
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