Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2022

Verstappen: ‘Completely wrong’ to cap F1 drivers’ salaries because ‘we put our lives at risk’

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Max Verstappen says it would be “completely wrong” to cap Formula 1 drivers’ salaries at a time when the sport’s popularity is growing.

F1 introduced a cap on teams’ budgets last year. However it does not cover what they pay their drivers and some other top team members.

Verstappen, who is believed to be among the sport’s highest earners, said the risks drivers take justifies their high incomes.

“It’s completely wrong because I think at the moment F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and everyone is benefiting,” he said. “So why [should] the drivers – with their IP rights and everything – be capped, who actually bring the show and put their lives at risk? Because we do, eventually. So for me, it’s completely wrong.”

The world champion said limiting the earning potential of F1 drivers could also make it harder for racers in feeder series to find sponsors.

“In all the junior categories, if you see how many of those drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will eventually have a certain percentage of their income in Formula 1 or whatever, I think it’s going to limit that a lot because they will never get their return in money if you get a cap. So it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don’t think you would want that.”

McLaren driver Lando Norris agreed with Verstappen.

“I’ve not had to think about it probably as much as him [but] I think what he said is correct,” he said. “Especially with the investment part into young drivers.

“It’s difficult enough to get into Formula 1 at all. So as soon as you have the backing, when you have an investor as a driver, they obviously want their money back at some point. And you’re going to have to do that.

“If it gets capped and so on it’s much harder and will interest people much less to ever invest in young drivers and invest into people having chances to get to Formula 1 in the first place. So I think that’s one of the main points.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

31 comments on “Verstappen: ‘Completely wrong’ to cap F1 drivers’ salaries because ‘we put our lives at risk’”

  1. ‘Completely wrong’ to cap F1 drivers’ salaries because ‘we…

    choose to

    put our lives at risk

    for fun, and not for money.

    So we say…’

    1. By the way, when will wee see a (relatively) low paid driver saying the same thing?

      There’s an uncanny coincidence that the highest payed drivers are the ones most outspoken about it….

      1. Oh, and I don’t agree with either of them from the sponsorship income aspect, as this wouldn’t change.
        All that would be capped is what they get paid from their team – not from their personal sponsors, which F1 has absolutely no control over or impact on.

        1. This is about what drivers have to pay their junior year sponsors, not what the sponsors pay the drivers.

          An example is Doornbos and his sponsor Harry Muermans. Doornbos didn’t make it in F1 and Muermans wanted his money back. Doornbos argued it was gift, Muermans argued it was an investment.

          After years of legal battle, Doornbos was finally able to settle with Muermans with money Doornbos made investing in the sextoy industry.

    2. Drivers put their lives at risk (and from a very young age), a lot of them and their families made gigantic financial risks to get them in that position of simply earning money from driving, they perform at extremely high levels of human performance and they are a huge factor in the generation of billions of dollars of revenue for F1 rights holders and teams.

      So the shareholders can profit to the tune of billions, but the actual people who are the key component of that revenue generation have their income from teams capped? That’s how you lay the foundation for breakaway series and discontent, and it makes very little logical sense unless you just have some dislike of drivers earning a lot of money.

      Not all drivers want to sign up to brand deals and all that entails either. They take up time and effort and not something drivers willingly sign up for. The teams are now financially very secure, so a wage cap makes no to little difference to team security.

      1. … in addition perception of greed is subjective. One should always be careful about using the team because there are probably are fair chunk of people in the world who would deem us and and those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy motorsport as ‘greedy’ as anyone posting on this site is more than likely in the top 10-20 percentile of global income/wealth.

        1. Drivers put their lives at risk (and from a very young age), a lot of them and their families made gigantic financial risks to get them in that position of simply earning money from driving, they perform at extremely high levels of human performance and they are a huge factor in the generation of billions of dollars of revenue for F1 rights holders and teams.

          So? Choices…

          So the shareholders can profit to the tune of billions, but the actual people who are the key component of that revenue generation have their income from teams capped?

          Nope. They just get their pay from the race team capped – not their total income.
          Much of their money would simply come from somewhere else – the sponsors directly, for example. It’s the same money, after all… It just wouldn’t change hands so often before it finally gets to the driver.

          in addition perception of greed is subjective.

          It certainly is. I think anyone who ‘negotiates’ to take home a pay of $30m p/a is pretty greedy, as they really should be donating most of that to people more needy than themselves, IMO. They don’t need it – they just want it. They are putting their own personal desires above the needs of others, and the benefit of the group/society as a whole.

          as anyone posting on this site is more than likely in the top 10-20 percentile of global income/wealth.

          I have no doubt whatsoever that many are – and it often shows. Personally, I don’t fit into that category. Not even close.
          But I don’t want to be either. Other people’s pursuit of money makes me sick, to be blunt. I despise money and all the negative effects it produces in people and society.

  2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    10th June 2022, 9:46

    When money is ever mentioned I think of footballers. It takes lots to get to the top flight in the UK and one misdirected kick to a players knee could end their career.

    With no certainty of the longevity of a career I say make hay while the sun shines. Get what you can while you can.

    In any business why would you negotiate for less than you think you are worth?

    1. In any business why would you negotiate for less than you think you are worth?

      A good example would be where demanding more money would put the business itself in a weaker financial position.
      Unions are well known for it – demanding raises and increasing costs to the business which ultimately end up shutting the business down and putting people out of work completely.

      Someone who is less greedy looks at from the perspective of what am I worth to my employer, and also what do I actually require to be satisfied in life.
      More money doesn’t make everyone more happy. In fact, it rarely makes anyone more happy in the long run.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        10th June 2022, 10:08

        I suspect the difference here though is ORBR would of stated where they could get to and Verstappen had a couple of choices to make and one of them wouldn’t be to go on strike and kill the business.

        1. Sure – but would he drive any slower if he was being paid less?

      2. “A good example would be where demanding more money would put the business itself in a weaker financial position.”

        except the teams aren’t in a weak position financially and unlike the Unions analogy the teams have a plethora of other hiring options they can bring in. A driver asking for too much doesn’t get hired.

      3. Employers want as much value as possible for as little money as possible, employees have every right to demand as much money as possible for the smallest amount of work. Why should only one side act in their own interest? It’s simple negotiation tactics.

        That being said f1 drivers who make 50 million + a year are a unique case. On the one hand it’s ridiculous for extremely wealthy individuals like Max to whine they can’t have more, on the other it’s not like the money he’s after would go anywhere but RB execs’ pockets. In that sense I don’t have an issue with what he’s saying.

        1. Why should only one side act in their own interest? It’s simple negotiation tactics.

          It’s greed. You can’t control another person’s greed, only your own.

          How much money do you need to exist in good health and contentedness? Not $30m a year, that’s for sure.
          For some people, though, the answer will always simply be: “More.” Not because they need more money, but because they want it.

  3. Verstappen has learnt a lot from Horner. Last week, Horner claimed the budget cap a massive issue that affects 70% of the grid. Horner took the mantle of saviour of the weak, and protector of the sports smaller teams and brought these issues to life.

    This week, Verstappen is the spokesperson for financially challenged drivers who’ve had to invest a lot of money to get to the sport and should seem to get good ROI on their investment. Obviously, Max really cares about F1 attracting the best drivers in the world, and he taken on that responsibility really well.

    Both Horner and Verstappen are now my heroes. No one stands up for the F1 community like these two.

    Note – Horner and Verstappen’s statement are completely unbiased to the fact that Red Bull will overshoot the budget cap soon, and Verstappen is likely to be the highest earner in F1 for a long time.

  4. There should be a salary cap for journos who ask these questions.

  5. I mean, he’s not wrong, weird headline selection not withstanding.

    “It’s completely wrong because I think at the moment F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and everyone is benefiting,” he said. “So why [should] the drivers – with their IP rights and everything – be capped, who actually bring the show and put their lives at risk? Because we do, eventually. So for me, it’s completely wrong.”

    It’d be really weird for this commercial advertisement to cap the income of the key parts of the commercial aspect behind a budget cap. Yes, they earn a lot of money. But when you’re one of twenty people in the world doing a particular job, one that makes a whole lot of money for the company you work for, then it makes sense of me that you’d get to profit from that income as well.

    1. key parts of the commercial aspect

      Exactly.

      Car development is a part of the sport: in that respect, there should not be extreme differences in teams’ budgets (level playing field, more exciting races etc.). Cost cap is relevant here.

      Driver pay, however, is mostly a part of marketing, especially in the case of a star driver. He is not paid 10-20-50 times more just because this alone makes chances of winning 10-20-50 times bigger. That star is valuable for the team from a business point of view as well. So why should he be left out of the deal?

  6. It’s simple economics, really… You are paid what you’re worth. How much money does having a Verstappen/Hamilton/Alonso/whoever bring to the sport as a whole? They are the stars of the show, the ones that make the headlines…

    If Red Bull thinks Verstappen is worth X amount of money is because they get a lot more in return. Otherwise they would just hire a cheaper option.

    1. @fer-no65 Pretty much on the money, the reality is that I pay my Sky Sports subscription to watch the drivers drive and certainly don’t pay it to listen to David Croft’s cringey commentary. Therefore I have no issue with top drivers, who are the stars, taking a disporportional cut of what i pay. Same applies to all other sports.

    2. +1 I think people aren’t taught economics in school these days or maybe they are teaching them socialism/Marxism.

  7. I feel conflicted on what to think about F1 wages and salary caps.

    In general I believe that people should be paid what someone is willing to pay them. This doesn’t necessarily exclude the option of salary caps though, as what is willing to be paid an still be constricted by an upper limit.

    As far as the ‘life risking” element though, whilst I don’t wish to downplay this angle as it is very real, if there is an actual ‘value’ that can be placed upon this then the same compensation should be applied to all drivers, not just the ones at the front, as all are risking their life equally (and I realise that could be debated due to other factors, but in general terms the risk is equal).

    And then there is comparisons to other vocations. Deep sea divers, astronauts, active servicemen etc. I do not pretend to know the fatality statistics, however I doubt men and women in these industries earn anywhere near that of the top F1 drivers even adjusting for potentially lower fatality risks.

  8. Electroball76
    10th June 2022, 13:13

    Millions of people do jobs that involve a serious risk of injury or death.
    Sports stars and other top entertainers are paid for their ability to help sell a product and turn a profit. That determines their perceived value.
    Talent can be part of that, but it isn’t a linear relationship.

  9. The whole drivers will owe sponsors thing makes no sense. Say verstappen signed a deal with Exact to give them a percentage of salary 6 years hence while their name is in his car. His salary negotiation just becomes part of the Exact sponsorship deal. They can put the money under whatever line item they want.

    And “we risk our lives” so we should make more is a weird justification. A lot of people risk their lives for work, like welders and road crews, and they ain’t making millions.

  10. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    10th June 2022, 13:35

    I agree with Max – it’s morally unconscionable to cap any driver’s salary who races against him. Whether Red Bull should have to bear the financial weight for all other teams considering the risk Max poses, that’s a different question.

  11. What are we now communists or socialists? Where does capping salary comes from. What sort of jealousy is this.

    If the market forces want to pay a certain professional a certain amount let them, if they are not worth it then they wont pay them that much.

  12. Capping drivers salaries seems pointless. The best driver will choose to drive for the best teams and they can already afford to pay what they are currently paying. Who would benefit from this (other than the big teams who would have to pay their drivers a bit less….) If they said there is a set wage and every driver will be paid exactly the same amount, I don’t think we’d see Lewis deciding to race for Haas or Max going to Williams….

    We always see discussions about capping drivers’ pay – how about capping the profits Liberty can take out of the sport? They can take x amount out and the rest can be spent on things like the Spa ticket refund issue or on grassroots motorsport…. Want a race at a popular track like Spa but they’re struggling with the fees? No problem – Liberty have already hit their profit cap so some of that money can be used!

    1. If they said there is a set wage and every driver will be paid exactly the same amount, I don’t think we’d see Lewis deciding to race for Haas or Max going to Williams….

      Absolutely correct – they’d try to get in the fastest car regardless of how much they’d be getting paid.
      And since you’ve just demonstrated that the drivers would rather have success than money, there’d be no issue in the teams paying them less, would there, @petebaldwin?

      The difference with Liberty is that they aren’t a sporting team in a competition with a defined set of financial regulations and (supposedly) equal competitors who must also abide by them.
      And yes, it would be great if Liberty and F1 donated more money to worthy causes. They won’t, though.
      The best we can expect is a small token gesture and that they then put the rest of their (very limited) effort into ‘raising awareness’ of some issues and inviting others to pay for them. That’s the way it generally works with this type of thing.

  13. There is a big difference between capping a salary or including it under the budget cap, then it’s up to the teams to choose where to spend the money. I would add into the cap the top executives that are excluded now and the whole marketing thing (Is a swimming pool in the paddock making the racing any better?) Include everything in the budget cap, raise it to 200 mils and watch where they chose to spend the Money. By the way salary cap is not a new thing in sport. Most major league sport in the US have one and it doesn’t stop them from hiring top names. Again it is not about individual salary it’s the entire team (players) then they chose where to spend the dough. Very easy to enforce too.

  14. Okay, an alternate viewpoint here:

    An F1 team may employ (let’s say) 800 people. Every one (except the 5 highest paid) of those people has two aspects subject to the budget cap – their employment and (if employed) their pay.
    If the team runs into financial constraints within the budget cap, they need to make cutbacks. 795 people are at risk of having their pay reduced or their employment terminated. The crazy thing is, most of those 795 people are each earning far, far less than the top 5 highest paid, therefore each one represents only a tiny fraction of the budget.
    Just to throw some random numbers around – to make up a $5m deficit in the budget, the team may have ‘cut’ 50 or more people, when that same $5m may only be 20% of just one driver’s pay. That’s a far easier and less destructive way to make up the shortfall, that doesn’t actually cost anyone anything at all in real terms. At that point, $20m or $25m is meaningless – and a smart, selfless driver would rather have that money spent on the car anyway.

    As the top 5 paid staff are exempt from the budget cap, we can creatively infer that they are not considered to be part of the team. If the driver isn’t considered in every way to be part of the team, then the team shouldn’t be paying them at all.
    Let the sponsors do that directly.

    This (to me) isn’t really about limiting anyone’s income (because it wouldn’t) – it’s about the regulations of a sporting competition, and the reason the budget cap was introduced in the first place.
    There may well be teams currently in F1 that don’t even spend as much as the current $140m cap including the top 5 paid staff, and yet there are other teams spending as much as the cap (and more) only on those 5 equivalent staff – in addition to their $140m budget.
    That is crazy, and shows that the way the budget cap has been implemented simply doesn’t work in either a financial sustainability capacity, nor in a sporting capacity.

    If you were going to design a cap with exceptions, you’d be better off ‘protecting’ the lowest paid team members, not the highest paid ones. The lowest paid make up the bulk of the team, after all, and collectively do most of the work.

    If anyone’s wondering why I keep saying “greed” on this subject – just look at who has protected themselves from the budget limitations…. Those who get the most money and have the most power. As usual.
    Exactly the same as the world outside of F1.

Comments are closed.