In advance of this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi, ArabianBusiness.com has released the results of a survey of Formula 1 drivers’ salaries for 2009. The survey was conducted by Tom Rubython, the author of the The Life of Senna, a biography of the late three-time world champion, and racing great, Ayrton Senna.
Rubython commented on the results of his survey by saying, “There may be a global recession going on but being an F1 driver means you earned a fortune last year. These figures are just basic salaries, and don’t include sponsorship and other income, which can often be three times that amount.”
While the ultimate accuracy of these numbers might be debatable, as teams don’t generally release this information to the public, the figures are consistent with what has been conjectured by most paddock pundits this year, give or take a few million.
There are a few noteworthy numbers on the list. First of all, Kimi Raikkonen’s salary of $45 million stands out as being far and away the largest figure of the lot. Kimi’s salary alone accounts for a full of third of the total for the entire grid. Considering that Raikkonoen has been, on balance, outperformed by his less expensive team mate, Felipe Massa (who earns a paltry $8 million), it’s no wonder that the Ferrari brass have been falling all over themselves trying to convince Kimi that he might be happier driving rally cars in his gorilla suit. According to rumor, Kimi’s replacement at Ferrari, Fernando Alonso, will get a bump from his current $15 million up to $20 million, once he dons red coveralls, but on a relative scale, this must seem like a bargain to the folks at Maranello.
The salaries of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso seem to better reflect current fair market value for top tier drivers who have garnered at least one world championship. Hamilton has one title to his name, and Alonso two. Other drivers who are currently thought to fill out the top tier, but who have not yet won a world title, i.e. Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa and (perhaps) Nico Rosberg, are all earning one-third to one-half the amounts currently being raked in by Hamilton and Alonso.
Jenson Button would probably figure more prominently on this list, if it weren’t for the voluntary pay cut he took at the financially strapped Brawn team in 2009. His salary for 2008 was in the neighborhood of $12 million, according to rumor, a figure which would have put him in fourth place on this year’s list. Button’s team mate, Rubens Barrichello, is earning a mere pittance of $1 million, according to the survey, which puts him at the bottom of the grid, fiscally speaking, with the likes of the Toro Rosso drivers, and Giancarlo Fisichella.
As for Fisichella, the survey doesn’t specify whether his $1.5 million was his salary at Force India, or Ferrari, where he moved to sub for Felipe Massa, or a total of both. Presumably, Fisichella, who has seen the black prancing horse in his dreams for years, would have agreed to drive for Ferrari gratis.
Finally, at the bottom of the list are the rent-a-drivers, the fellows who have a full time race seat by virtue of the sponsorship funding they bring to the team. Presumably their compensation is covered directly by their sponsorsDri, and never appears on the teams’ books. In Kaz Nakajima’s case, his position was stipulated by the engine contract that Williams had with Toyota. Williams are terminating the contract a year early, however, so it’s expected that Nakajima, who has not been overly impressive, will be looking for a new home.
The total salaries for 22 drivers this year, not counting the departed Sebastian Bourdais who was fired from Toro Rosso mid-season, was $134,800,000 (USD). The average salary for all drivers on the grid is $6,419,048 per year. If you exclude the four pay-to-play drivers, however, this boosts the average up to $7,929,412.
One suspects this average will drop significantly next year for two reasons: (a) no one in his right mind will agree to pay Kimi Raikkonen the kind of money he is currently earning, and (b) the four fledgling teams being added to the grid, all of whom are likely to be walking a tightrope fiscally speaking, will probably rely heavily on pay-to-play drivers. Sic transit gloria money.
Image source: Craig Scott.