An equally apt title for this piece would have been ‘Money Talks’ because it does so nowhere more so than in Formula 1 and, with this in mind, it’s worth establishing who was worth what to their teams in 2019.
For the record, this is an unplanned Part II of my earlier musings about Max Verstappen’s salary, why I want to know what he and his peers on the grid earn and if their respective teams are getting their monies worth.
This, of course, was spawned by speculation from various sources across the internet that have the young Dutch prodigy earning anything between €16-million and €40-million.
F1 driver salaries and contracts with their teams have always been subject to speculation for obvious reasons (tax!) and most ‘annual-salary’ stories are not based on the official figures inked into each drivers’ individual contract. In other words, these reports are well-calculated thumb sucks by respected publications which we all latch onto.
Often when I hit ‘Publish’ on such posts I always wonder (with a smile) what the drivers would make of such speculation and how many ‘guesses’ are on the mark or not? Do they even sneak a peek at those types of stories? Or even care?
Our media colleagues in other major sports have no such problems as there are websites dedicated to plotting every penny made by athletes of the respective disciplines. All the wages of thousands of sports professionals including football (soccer) players of all main leagues as well as NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR etc but, of course, excluded are the salaries of our 20 F1 drivers.
In all my years as a professional in motorsport who earns what is always the elephant in the room but everyone wants to know what the other guy is earning, from the top guns of every team to drivers, engineers including PR and media people. I am one of these people.
Trust me, the only guy who doesn’t care about anyone else’s salary is the guy who knows he earns the most and right now that’s Lewis Hamilton. Everyone else on that grid gives a shit, and make that the entire paddock too.
No doubt the new deal means Max has received a big salary boost, but at the bottom of his heart, he wants to earn more than Lewis. And if the Red Bull star indeed is earning double what Charles is getting, then the Monaco Kid might be asking a few questions.
Because the word in Italian media is that he is on around €10-million per year for the next five. That’s low in my book unless of course there are some hefty bonus clauses attached as tends to be the case with rising stars.
Nevertheless, if Max is bagging 40-mil-a-year, Charles might feel he has been fleeced by the Reds and if I were him I would be asking some questions of my management team and Mattia Bonotto for that matter.
Excuse the switch to dollars but let’s do the maths:
Last year, Seb scored 240 points and [allegedly] banked $45-million which equals $187,500 per point it cost Ferrari or Marlboro or Mission Whatever.
Leclerc, supposedly on $3.5-million. finished ahead of the German with 364 points at a cost of $13,250 per point! Now that is an incredible bargain as should be his new 12-mil-a-year deal if there are no performance clauses weaved into it.
Taking the abovementioned exercise into account this is how drivers fared dollar-per-point in 2020:
$ PER POINT
* Robert Kubica
* George Russell
* Williams were not really in it so their drivers don’t count in this exercise.
Ignore the smoke and mirrors of market value, we have rookie Alex Albon earning a ‘paltry’ $170,000, the cheapest hire on the 2019 grid, as the best value for money in terms of raking in the points at $1,800 per point for Red Bull.
On the other hand, Leclerc was easily the best value among the drivers of the Big Three teams at $13,250 per point.
Accordingly, in this exercise, Renault paid through their teeth for Daniel Ricciardo and this points-per-dollar formula perhaps a tad unfair on the Aussie, largely because the French team could not provide a podium challenging car as promised by his boss Cyril Abiteboul and hence the anomaly.
No surprise Romain Grosjean was far too costly for what he brought in for Haas, not only compared to the rest of the grid but also back-to-back with teammate Kevin Magnussen. If you add the cost of the Frenchman’s carbon-fibre carnage over the course of the year, he is no cheap date.
In the end, I am one of those F1 fans who believe money matters and who earns what in our sport is far more intriguing than winglets or tyre-pressures.
Rather show me the money because, when we know who-earns-what, then there is nowhere to hide.
Big Question: Which F1 driver is the best value for money?