The Top 10 Highest-Paid Formula One Drivers

By on November 28, 2023 in ArticlesSports News

It's fairly rare for the highest-paid athlete in a sport to also be the champion of that sport. Lately, however, we've had a good solid run of that happening. Stephen Curry is the NBA's highest-paid player, and the Golden State Warriors won the championship in 2022. Max Scherzer was tied for the MLB's highest-paid player in 2023, the same year his Texas Rangers won the World Series. This year, Max Verstappen is doing the same thing in Formula One. And in his case, it's not even close.

Verstappen is the highest-paid Formula One driver by an impressive margin, earning $20 million more than the second-highest-paid driver. With the 2023 F1 season ending this last weekend, he's going to easily finish atop the championship standings, more than doubling up the driver in second place in overall points.

Here's a look at the top 10 highest-paid Formula One drivers for the 2023 season:

From left to right: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and George Russell (Mark Thompson/Getty Images )

The Top 10 Highest-Paid Formula One Drivers:

1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull: $55 million

Max Verstappen is only 26 years old but is dominating the F1 circuit. As of this writing, he has 549 points, including 20 podiums and 18 victories. His Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez is in second place — a whopping 276 points behind Verstappen. The Belgian and Dutch driver has now won three straight F1 World Championships and shows no signs of slowing down. Could he end up breaking Michael Schumacher's record for consecutive championship seasons? Schumacher won five in a row from 2000 to 2004. Verstappen is already 60% of the way there.

2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: $35 million

Before Verstappen's recent tear, Lewis Hamilton was the driver to beat in F1 races. From 2014 to 2020, he won the championship in every year but one. For his career, he's won more than 100 races and reached the podium nearly 200 times. Hamilton's current contract is front-loaded, so he's actually earning less this year than he has the past five seasons. But he could be adding to his overall earnings soon — Ferrari offered him a massive contract earlier this year to leave Mercedes and join them instead. Hamilton is already one of the highest earners in Formula One history. The British driver has made an estimated $512 million over 16 seasons.

3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: $24 million

Speaking of Ferrari, Leclerc is sitting at seventh in the 2023 F1 standings. He hasn't won a race this season — and has finished first in just five races in his career — but he's one of Ferrari's best drivers, so he earns a high salary. He finished in second place during the 2022 F1 season, though he has no chance to finish among the top three this year. Leclerc's career earnings show the stark difference between him and Hamilton. In six seasons, Leclerc has made about $66 million, or $11 million per year. Hamilton's annual average is nearly three times that, at $32 million per year. 

4. Lando Norris, McLaren: $20 million

In 103 F1 races, Lando Norris has never won. However, he's secured 13 podiums and is among the more popular racers in the sport. At 24 years old, he's still fairly young and new to the racing scene. Perhaps he can learn a thing or two from Hamilton, his fellow British driver.

5. Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari: $12 million

Carlos Sainz Jr. is making half as much as his teammate Charles Leclerc, though unlike Leclerc, Sainz has won a race this season. That, combined with three podium appearances, has put Sainz in a tie for fourth place. He'll likely finish ahead of Leclerc when all is said and done, which could help him earn a pay raise in the coming years.

6. Sergio "Checo" Perez, Red Bull: $10 million

Most drivers would like to have the type of season Sergio Perez is having. He's comfortably in second place in the F1 standings. Aside from Verstappen, he's the only driver to have won multiple races this year. His nine podiums are also the best among all non-Verstappen drivers. Red Bull is certainly pleased — between their two drivers, they've won 20 races and 29 podiums. Maybe Red Bull gives cars wings, too…

6. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo: $10 million

Aside from earning a solid salary, Finnish Valtteri Bottas is having a season to forget this year. He has just 10 points with no wins or podium appearances. Valtteri joined Alfa Romeo before the 2022 season after five years with Mercedes. He had previously finished in the top three on four separate occasions, including runner-up in 2019 and 2020.

8. George Russell, Mercedes: $8 million

George Russell has only reached the podium once this season and will finish 2023 in 8th place. Perhaps it's fitting, since he's this year's 8th highest-paid driver. Russell has just one victory during his F1 career, winning the 2022 São Paulo Grand Prix. 

9. Esteban Ocon, Alpine: $6 million

The highest-paid Alpine racer, Esteban Ocon is in a tight battle in the standings with his teammate and fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly. Both have had one podium this season, and headed into the final race of the season, they're separated by a mere four points.

10. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin; Pierre Gasly, Alpine; Kevin Magnussen, Haas: $5 million each

Of this group, Fernando Alonso is the highest in the standings, currently tied for fourth. He's also had the third-most podiums of any racer, with eight (despite zero wins). Pierre Gasly has an outside shot to finish in the top ten for the year. Kevin Magnussen is near the bottom of the standings, in 19th place, with a disappointing three points.

Verstappen has earned more than $175 million in cash over nine seasons. As he celebrates another championship, we'll have to see if Red Bull gives him another raise. He's certainly earned it with his work on the circuit. If he keeps this driving up, the sky is truly the limit for his earnings potential. At this pace, reaching Hamilton's accomplishment of half a billion in earnings seems all but guaranteed.

The other drivers on the list will do their best to knock Verstappen off the top of the standings. After all, winning races not only leads to championships but also brings lucrative financial gains, both in salary and endorsement opportunities. It pays to be a winner.

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