Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, testing, 2021

2021 F1 driver salaries: Top earner Hamilton takes pay cut in one-year Mercedes deal

2021 F1 season

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The value of Lewis Hamilton’s next contract with Mercedes – and whether he would keep his place on top of the F1 drivers’ salary list – was a matter of speculation throughout last season.

Early in the season it became clear Hamilton was on course to score a record-equalling seventh Formula 1 championship success, which would further raise his already sky-high market value. Although Hamilton played down the importance of his salary in discussions over his new deal, reports claimed F1’s highest-earning driver was seeking a further pay rise.

Hamilton was thought to be on around $40 million (£29.08m) per year under his previous deal – well over $2 million per race last year when the pandemic shortened the schedule from 22 races to 17. Reports elsewhere he was seeking as much as $50 million for 2021 prompted a dismissive response from Hamilton on social media.

Hamilton’s new deal was finally announced in February, having been held up as first he and then Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff contracted Covid-19. Given the limited time left to agree a deal, he only agreed a one-year extension, and RaceFans understands he accepted a reduction in his fee to $30 million. This cut of around $1 million per race is contrary to reports elsewhere, though as in the case of all drivers there will be a bonus package associated with it.

He isn’t the only multiple champion whose salary has fallen this year. Aston Martin is believed to be paying Sebastian Vettel half what he earned in his final season at Ferrari. Vettel and team mate Lance Stroll are understood to be paid directly by the manufacturer, rather than the team.

Analysis: How Hamilton becomes Britain’s richest sportsperson of all time
Fernando Alonso will bank more than Vettel on his return to F1 with Alpine. He is thought to be F1’s third-highest-earning driver, behind Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

But the days of such sky-high salaries may be numbered. F1 teams have to operate within a budget cap for the first time this year, and though it does yet not cover payments to drivers, that may change in the future.

Last year Hamilton admitted he did not feel comfortable negotiating a “big contract” while so many people were losing their jobs due to the pandemic. And having already surpassed footballer David Beckham as Britain’s highest-earning sportsperson of all time, Hamilton is arguably in a position where he can afford to take less.

That will make a strong case for anyone arguing that the time has come to put a cap on how much money F1 drivers earn.

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RaceFans’ 2021 Formula 1 driver salary estimates

TeamDriverSalary*Debut
MercedesLewis Hamilton$30m (£21.9m)2007
MercedesValtteri Bottas$10m (£7.3m)2013
Red BullMax Verstappen$25m (£18.25m)2015
Red BullSergio Perez$8m (£5.84m)2011
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo$15m (£10.95m)2011
McLarenLando Norris$5m (£3.65m)2019
Aston MartinSebastian Vettel$15m (£10.95m)2007
Aston MartinLance Stroll$10m (£7.3m)2017
AlpineEsteban Ocon$5m (£3.65m)2016
AlpineFernando Alonso$20m (£14.6m)2001
FerrariCarlos Sainz Jnr$10m (£7.3m)2015
FerrariCharles Leclerc$12m (£8.76m)2018
AlphaTauriYuki Tsunoda$0.5m (£0.365m)2021
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly$5m (£3.65m)2017
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen$10m (£7.3m)2001
Alfa RomeoAntonio Giovinazzi$1m (£0.73m)2017
HaasMick Schumacher$1m (£0.73m)2021
HaasNikita Mazepin$1m (£0.73m)2021
WilliamsNicholas Latifi$1m (£0.73m)2020
WilliamsGeorge Russell$1m (£0.73m)2019

Note: All drivers on basic packages with individual bonuses

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on “2021 F1 driver salaries: Top earner Hamilton takes pay cut in one-year Mercedes deal”

  1. Norris for $5m looks like a right bargain.

    $15m for Vettel on the otherhand…

    1. And 10 million to Lance Stroll?

      1. Lets be real, that’s just early inherentance money so it doesn’t really matter what that number is.

      2. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
        9th April 2021, 2:43

        Any idea why Lance would be paid when the team is his? Something to do with taxes?

        1. I guess inheritance tax is more than income tax in Canada. Hence, this becomes a cheaper way to transfer wealth to your son.

          1. Jonathan Côté
            9th April 2021, 14:36

            Makes no sense. There is no inheritance tax in Canada…

            Stroll have residency in Switzerland and some other tax free island.

    2. That does seem a little surprising, as the talk before Vettel joined was that he had a fairly low salary, but being given shares in Aston Martin given that he is expected to carry out promotional work for them over the long term.

      In other words, his pay off would be in increasing the long term value of the company, rather than the short term salary. Maybe he wants more upfront and less in shares, but it would be different to what he was thought to be doing when he signed that contract.

    3. I think a 4 time world champion from a country of 84 million people is a more recognizable media figure than a 3-year in F1 driver from England.

      And let’s face it, Vettel is in AMR to sell DBXs, not win WDCs.

      1. @faulty on the other hand, Vettel has not been particularly enthusiastic about, for example, engaging with social media and has generally preferred to keep a relatively low profile in terms of media engagement: Norris, by contrast, is much happier to interact with people in that manner.

        Equally, you talk about “a 4 time world champion from a country of 84 million people”, but it is worth noting that, whilst Vettel is moderately popular in Germany, his popular appeal isn’t especially noteworthy in Germany.

        Asides from that, if you were interested in marketability, then shouldn’t the bigger question be about the wider popular appeal and recognition of a driver across multiple nations, not just on a national scale? Kimi Raikkonen might hail from Finland, a nation with only 5.5 million people, but his global popular appeal has fairly regularly outstripped that of Vettel in the past – similarly, figures like Verstappen, Leclerc or Ricciardo might hail from nations with considerably smaller populations than that of Vettel’s home nation, but on a global scale, their influence across the fan base is pretty significant.

        Of course, there is the flip side of how a driver might then be perceived outside of the world of motorsport and how the popular image in that sphere lines up – that may be an area where the image of Vettel might look comparatively different to how it might be presented amongst motorsport fans on a wider level. Overall, I’d say that it is a complicated picture and one where it might not necessarily be quite as clear cut as you suggest.

        Reply moderated
    4. @joeypropane These numbers are all just guesswork anyway.

  2. Best value for money, i’d take George and Charles.

    1. @suwperman

      The numbers for young drivers like Russell reflect their unknown status and humble team burgers. No doubt his current market value is much higher.

      Russell, for example, is probably worth at least as much as Bottas.

      1. humble team burgers

        So cheap as chips @slotopen? :o)

      2. His contract ends this year his new one will be much higher then Bottas i gues around 15m

        1. With Williams? No way, williams team cannot afford that, not in their current state. Even if George joins Mercedes he will not get 15m on his first year, probably 8-12m max. He has to prove consistently first before he gets more than Bottas.

    2. And dont forget Tsunoda; 5% of Lance salary only; but probably will score twice the points than him. Absolute bargain

      1. @mmertens isn’t Tsunoda still under contract with Honda though? If Tsunoda is receiving separate benefits from Honda, who might be providing him with financial payments or providing other services and support free of charge to Tsunoda, then his financial situation might look rather more favourable than the bare figures might suggest.

        I do also have to note that the salary quoted for Stroll does seem a little surprising though when, last year, he was on a salary of $3 million. https://www.racefans.net/2020/03/30/how-much-are-f1-drivers-earning-in-2020-and-should-their-fees-be-capped/

        1. Image rights fees should be a little bit higher if you’re advertising with a team closely associated with the official car of the International Man of Mistery than for, well, a pink water filter.

      2. For a rookie who has yet to prove himself that is a normal salary.

  3. that unfortunate provided, it is sad to see this information. There is no doubt, there is discrimination in F1.

    Reply moderated
    1. What’s that? Discrimination based on achievements and talent?

    2. Carlos,
      I think some more detail is required in your comment

      1. Well, without having any context I’d say perez’s 8 mil is particularly low in comparison to other drivers who perform worse but get more.

        1. Sweetie, ANY single one (just one) of these salaries could feed, clothe, educate and other vise finance a normal family through GENERATIONS. Yes I mean GENERATIONS.

          If this is the level at which you believe we should be fighting discrimination, you’re sadly misguided. Like that dude who owns an 18 million pound mansion he’s never lived in but keeps claiming he’s particular people’s group rights advocate.

          Your cause is noble, but do go spend your energy on people who’s paycheck cut means they can’t afford pants and bread, not the 4th yacht….

          Reply moderated
        2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          9th April 2021, 14:43

          Perez’s salary from Red Bull is a huge joke :-) Who makes $8 million in soccer? Does any decent player make so little?

  4. I wish these were the prices for the Fantasy F1 I do!

  5. Haas are paying Mazespin 😂

  6. I’d take 60 Tsunoda’s over Hamilton.

    1. @njf03 Good luck fitting them all into the same car.

      1. Just get 59 and buy a big motor home ;)

        1. @coldfly Nice solution, but I’m betting on 1 Hamilton setting the faster lap time still :OP

    2. What about 10 Russells for one Stroll ? There is some arbitrage to be made here.

  7. I hope Haas are paying Mazespin per lap.

    1. Ahaha, that’s a good one.

  8. Four Ocon’s for one Alonso. Seems about right but still $20m feels a lot.

    1. Do you know I agree. I think bearing in mind Alonso has been out for two years and where he is in his career, £20 million seems like a lot. Of course he is a WDC but then so are Vettel and Raikkonen.

      I think compared to Lewis earning £30 million, Max at £25 million looks expensive if this is correct. Lewis is a 7 x WDC. What’s Max won to merit this?

      1. Doesn’t time fly. It’s eleven years ago that Kimi earned himself two payments of $50m from Ferrari, plus various other lucrative extras, all for staying home in Switzerland, doing the odd bit of skiing and now and then a round of golf.

        1. Oh, and a bit of rally

      2. Phil, completely disagree: alonso is deserving of more than raikkonen and vettel, it’s not all about titles, it’s aboiut performance, and alonso certainly kept driving at a high level, unlike the other 2, and was better even at peak, if you just look at the cars they had and what they did with them.

        Furthermore, verstappen has proven in recent times to be at hamilton’s level as long as the car is up to par, so 7 championships don’t matter, hamilton said himself he’d have won only 1 title with mclaren, the car matters too much for salary to be all about titles.

        1. You’re a bit naive to take that quote of Hamilton into heart…when what’s matter is what’s done…25 for max is rather rich for only 30 for Hamilton…

          Reply moderated
        2. @esploratore You have a point. Kimi got only 1 win in his last stint with Ferrari. Vettel drove his worst season to date in his last season with them. In F1 you truly are as good as your last race or season. When we look at Alonso he achieved two Le Mans wins and won Daytona once and competed in Indy 500 in 3 years.

    2. As it’s mainly guesswork I will hazard a guess that, come the year’s end, Alonso will be worth a fraction of what Alpine pay him now.

      1. Oof size = large!

    3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      9th April 2021, 14:55

      @qeki This mentality works if Renault was allowed to field 4 cars with 4 Ocons in them while everyone else fields just 1 car per driver :-)

      1. @freelittlebirds All that I can think of that is 4 Ocons crashing to each other while battling for 7th 8th 9th 10th place ;)

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          9th April 2021, 19:54

          @qeki ha-ha-ha – that would be entertaining ;-)

          1. Worse, that would be realistic.

  9. Any information on the source of this data? The salaries I’ve seen posted elsewhere on the web are wildly different for some drivers, although those articles also neglected to include any references so just as unreliable I suppose

    1. So who to believe. Accredited F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Keith Collantine who we know have many legitimate sources throughout the paddock, or repost websites with zero journalists. I wonder?

      Of course, as the articles states by the numerous “it is believed” throughout, these numbers are not set in stone as nobody has access to the contracts outside of a select few. But I would reckon if any numbers are as close to the truth as possible, these would be the ones to bank on.

      1. Dieter and Keith do great work, that’s why I frequent this website, but it doesn’t mean everything they write is gospel, there’s not a single mention or suggestion of where the information comes from. It’s fun to debate the value for money of each driver but the numbers given here are no better than what you or I could come up with if they dont come from a reliable source

  10. Hopefully Tsunoda has incentives built in that get him over 1 million for the season. I know 500 is a lot of money but the job requires high skill over a long season.

    1. I too hope Yuki has a decent bonus package. Currently he’s 9th on the WDC Championship table. I hope he moves up the table too.

  11. I assume these are all guesstimates and we shouldn’t over analyse them.
    But why did AR decided to double Kimi’s base salary?

    I didn’t ask the tripping of Stroll’s salary as he clearly comes with a major sponsor.

  12. The biggest joke is Stroll’s salary.

  13. Ah, someone said if bottas loses the mercedes seat he should just leave rather than make up the numbers, but as you can see here, he’s making quite some money, makes sense to stay for such an amount.

  14. Also, 2 drivers who are here 20 years after their debut, that’s crazy.

  15. Interesting list. Senna, Prost and Mansell used to get about a million a race back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This list seems low considering 30 odd years have passed. I guess the teams are so much bigger and more expensive that the driver is worth less overall as a component of the team.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      9th April 2021, 14:25

      I agree – some drivers are criminally underpaid especially for the risk they take. They should have been kicking soccer balls.

  16. Dean Franklin
    9th April 2021, 8:41

    Seems like Hamilton lost those negotiations in a big way.

    1. Ssh…. Hamilton doesn’t realise that yet!
      When he does he will open talks with Ferrari, who will also let him believe he is driving a hard bargain…..

    2. Yeah, hence his sloppy performance in Bahrain.

      1. He had the best car in Bahrain without a doubt.

  17. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    9th April 2021, 14:41

    Almost every driver on this list is underpaid. Some are nearly volunteering… I’m surprised they actually have to show up for the race – pull a Neymar and sit 6 races out – my Achilles hurts, sorry. Oh, did we drop 3 spots in the championship? What a shame… look on the bright side, there’s no relegation in F1 ;-)

    Given how short most careers in F1 are and the risk, this is a very low paying sport. It must not be very popular.

  18. Ahmad Iskandar Mazlan
    11th April 2021, 12:26

    Max is quite high compare to 7xWDC

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