As Formula One looks to cap costs for 2022 — which includes driver salaries — it’s important to put a racer’s salary into perspective. And, as it stands, only one driver sits in a recently published list of the top-1o highest-paid athletes of all time: Michael Schumacher.
Published by Sportico, this new list looks at the (American dollar) earnings of different athletes from disciplines all around the world. Don’t worry — the list has been ranked after being adjusted for inflation if that athlete’s career has been over for a while. And in the top 10, only Michael Schumacher represents the racing drivers of the world down in ninth place.
His earnings? $1.13 billion. Michael Jordan, the athlete at the top of the list, took in more than double that amount with $2.62 billion. That’s not surprising when you consider the basketball star’s fame, but it’s pretty stunning that such a stark contrast exists between the top and bottom of the top-1o list.
Sportico’s list actually includes the top-25 highest-paid athletes, and as a whole, we get a grand total of three drivers. Down in 20th place is Lewis Hamilton with earnings of $620 million and Jeff Gordon in 22nd with $595 million.
When you look at the other athletes in the top 10, three are golfers, two are basketball players, two are soccer players, one is a boxer, and one is a tennis professional. And while multi-millions are still a lot of money, there’s a massive difference between 100 million dollars and one billion dollars.
So, why aren’t there more drivers on the list? We talk a lot about the wild expenses of motorsport — especially in series like F1 — but the vast majority of racers in the world aren’t paid much at all. In many disciplines, drivers actually pay for the privilege of racing.
For example, if we assume that F1 drivers are the highest-paid racers in the world, then we’re not talking about a ton of money. Exact numbers aren’t published, but estimates exist. Hamilton tops the list at $30 million (though others estimate his salary around $60 million or more), followed by Max Verstappen at $25 million and Fernando Alonso at $20 million. At the very bottom of the pack is Yuki Tsunoda, who is said to earn a mere $500,000 per year.
Again: for most folks in this world, $500,000 is nothing to shake a stick at. It would be a life-changing amount of money. But compared to a sport like the NFL — where the highest-paid player, Patrick Mahomes, made $45 million in 2021 and the lowest-paid players are capped at a minimum salary of $480,00 per year — F1 seems like a whole different game. It makes sense that we don’t see more high-earning racers.