Formula 1’s Highest-Paid Drivers 2023


Virtually unbeatable on the racetrack, Max Verstappen is top of the paycheck podium as well, leading a group of 10 drivers who collectively made $258 million this year.

By Brett Knight, Forbes Staff


Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen just completed the most dominant season in Formula 1 history, claiming a record 19 race victories (in 22 races) and sewing up the drivers’ title back on October 7. No surprise, then, that he’s the series’ financial champion as well, with an estimated $70 million in salary and bonus this year to lead all F1 drivers.

The 26-year-old Verstappen captures the top spot for the second straight season, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who made an estimated $55 million on the track in 2023 and has spent a decade as the series’ highest-paid star in Forbes’ annual athletes earnings ranking.

In all, the 10 highest-paid drivers in F1 collected an estimated $258 million in 2023 before taxes, a slight dip from 2022’s $264 million.

Unlike Forbes’ earnings lists for, say, soccer or the NBA, the F1 ranking excludes income from business endeavors such as endorsements, focusing solely on the sport’s salaries and bonuses. Because drivers are generally required to make appearances on behalf of their team and the team’s partners, most of them spend little effort seeking out personal sponsorships. Only a handful are believed to rake in more than $1 million annually, with Hamilton’s income off the track pegged at $10 million and Verstappen’s at $4 million for Forbes’ 2023 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

Still, despite the lack of endorsement deals, Formula 1 drivers are bona fide global stars, and increasingly relevant in the United States, where the Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive has attracted a passionate fan base. With the new interest, and an influx of new sponsors, Forbes estimated in July that the 10 Formula 1 teams would average $380 million in revenue this year, up from $220 million in 2018.

At the same time, a cost cap introduced in 2021 restricts teams’ spending in key areas—to less than $140 million in 2023—with the goal of creating greater parity between powerhouses like Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull and smaller outfits like Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams. For now, though, driver salaries are excluded from the cap calculation, giving team owners one prominent area where they can continue to splash their cash.

“Clearly that is a big differentiator today, that big teams can just offer much bigger salaries to drivers,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told Forbes at the U.S. Grand Prix last month. He noted that the idea of a salary cap had been floated within the sport, but any such change would need to be part of a new Concorde Agreement—the series’ governing contract—meaning for the 2026 season at the earliest, if ever.

In the meantime, the existing cost cap could also have indirect effects on drivers’ earnings. Open-wheel racing will always be part man and part machine, but if the budget rules bunch up the F1 pack, that balance could shift.

“Once the cost cap starts to work even better than now, and I’m saying it’s already working good now, the driver will have more of an impact again,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told Forbes last month. “And obviously the price for the drivers will go up.”

FORMULA 1’S HIGHEST-PAID DRIVERS 2023


#1 • $70M

Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing | Nationality: Netherlands | Age: 26

Salary: $45M | Bonuses: $25M

Verstappen won his third straight drivers’ championship this season by prevailing in 19 races, breaking the record he set last season with a comparatively puny 15 victories. He also finished with a 290-point lead in the standings, which not only broke another series mark (Sebastian Vettel’s 155-point margin of victory in 2013) but lapped the 285 points that 2023 runner-up Sergio Pérez scored in total. Verstappen—who was one of five athletes 25 or younger on Forbes’ 2023 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, which was published ahead of his 26th birthday in September—is due for a raise next season as his five-year contract extension with Red Bull Racing begins.


#2 • $55M

Lewis Hamilton

Team: Mercedes | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 38

Salary: $55M | Bonuses: $0

One of only two drivers in F1 history to have won seven championships (alongside the legendary Michael Schumacher), Lewis Hamilton rebounded from 2022’s sixth-place finish to nab third this season. That may still qualify as a disappointment by his lofty standards, however. Hamilton reached the podium at just six races in 2023—his fewest in a season since 2013, when he had five podium finishes across 19 races—and is now winless in back-to-back seasons. (He has won at least one Grand Prix in every other season of his 17-year Formula 1 career.) But the 38-year-old British superstar isn’t going anywhere, ending months of speculation by signing a multiyear contract extension with Mercedes in August.


#3 • $34M

Fernando Alonso

Team: Aston Martin | Nationality: Spain | Age: 42

Salary: $24M | Bonuses: $10M

In his first season with Aston Martin, after two years racing for Alpine, the hugely popular Alonso finished fourth in the driver standings. The 42-year-old Spaniard was the last driver not named Verstappen or Hamilton to lead the F1 earnings race, making an estimated $30 million on Forbes’ 2013 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes ($28 million on the track and $2 million off it). Alonso has also dabbled in other motorsports, including endurance racing and IndyCar, and he recently told GQ España that he would like to return to rally driving whenever he retires from Formula 1.


#4 • $26M

Sergio Pérez

Team: Red Bull Racing | Nationality: Mexico | Age: 33

Salary: $10M | Bonuses: $16M

Pérez won two of the season’s first four races, combining with teammate Max Verstappen to give Red Bull Racing 21 Grand Prix victories in 22 races. But while the Mexican star finished second in the driver standings, a midseason slide fueled speculation that Red Bull could look to replace him in 2024. For now, at least, Pérez remains under contract through next season and has laughed off rumors that he might be ready to retire at 33.


#5 • $19M

Charles Leclerc

Team: Ferrari | Nationality: Monaco | Age: 26

Salary: $14M | Bonuses: $5M

A report over the summer claimed that Leclerc, fifth on the grid this season after a second-place finish in 2022, had agreed to a record-breaking contract extension with Ferrari. That turned out to be false—“I wish I did this deal!” Leclerc joked to The Race in August—but he has recently affirmed that he hopes to stay with the Prancing Horse beyond next season. “Do I want to win world championships? Of course, this is the same for everybody,” he told ESPN. “But do I want to change my place with anyone? No, I don’t.”


#6 • $15M

Lando Norris

Team: McLaren | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 24

Salary: $5M | Bonuses: $10M

After some problems with McLaren’s cars early in the season, Norris came roaring down the stretch, reaching the podium in five of six races from September to November to help his team pass Aston Martin for fourth in the constructor standings. Norris—who finished sixth among drivers, a single point behind both Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc—may not have won a Grand Prix trophy in 2023, but he did manage to take one away from Max Verstappen: During the celebration after July’s Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was the runner-up, Norris accidentally knocked over and broke the winner’s porcelain cup.


#7 • $14M

Carlos Sainz

Team: Ferrari | Nationality: Spain | Age: 29

Salary: $8M | Bonuses: $6M

Sainz was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a Grand Prix this year, taking the checkered flag in Singapore in September, and he landed just behind his teammate Charles Leclerc (and Lando Norris) for seventh in the driver standings. The 29-year-old Spaniard also picked up some hardware in Las Vegas this month: He partnered with golfer Justin Thomas to win the Netflix Cup, the streamer’s first live sporting event, which paired F1 drivers and PGA Tour players in an exhibition match on the links.


#8 • $9M

George Russell

Team: Mercedes | Nationality: United Kingdom | Age: 25

Salary: $4M | Bonuses: $5M

Russell couldn’t quite match the heights of his 2022 debut with Mercedes, when he earned his first race win and finished fourth in the standings. But his eighth-place effort in 2023 was enough to keep Mercedes in second place in the constructors’ race, three points ahead of Ferrari. The 25-year-old Brit signed a contract extension in August at the same time as Lewis Hamilton, saying, “I wanted to reward the trust and belief that [Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff] and the rest of the team placed in me.”


#9 (tie) • $8M

Pierre Gasly

Team: Alpine | Nationality: France | Age: 27

Salary: $5M | Bonuses: $3M

Gasly jumped to Alpine this season after spending most of the past six years with the team now known as AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso). He and his new teammate, fellow Frenchman Esteban Ocon, ended up back to back in the standings, at Nos. 11 and 12. He also claimed his first podium in two years when Sergio Pérez received a penalty in the Netherlands, bumping Gasly up from fourth.


#9 (tie) • $8M

Oscar Piastri

Team: McLaren | Nationality: Australia | Age: 22

Salary: $3M | Bonuses: $5M

Piastri was the youngest driver on the grid in 2023 but more than held his own, reaching the podium in Japan and Qatar and winding up ninth in the overall standings. Previously a champion in the lower-tier Formula 2 and Formula 3, he raced this season for McLaren after the team prevailed in a battle with Alpine for his services.


METHODOLOGY

With few Formula 1 driver salaries publicly available, Forbes generated its on-track compensation estimates in collaboration with Forbes.com contributor Caroline Reid of the data firm Formula Money. The estimates are based on financial documents, legal filings and press reports, as well as conversations with industry insiders. All figures are rounded to the nearest million.

Drivers typically receive a base salary plus bonuses for points scored or for race or championship wins, with the bonus amount depending on the size of the team and the experience of the driver. Off-track compensation, including endorsements, is not included in this ranking. Forbes does not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees.

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