The image of Formula 1 drivers that many people have is of impossibly wealthy, yacht-owning playboys living in tax havens with supermodels. And it's an image that is not entirely inaccurate.
However, in the context of the league table of global sports stars, the earnings of most drivers start to look a little less generous. You might even feel a twinge of sympathy for some of them.
It's an interesting exercise to ask fans who they think the highest paid sports stars are. People who keep up to date with sports news at sites like http://www.bettingsports.com/ will often go for Tiger Woods. And in a sense they're right, but the huge majority of Woods' earnings, published in June in Forbes' annual list of the top 100, comes from endorsements. Take these away, and concentrate on salary and winnings/bonuses, and Tiger slips a long way down the list.
It's a reasonable thing to do, since it leaves you with an earnings figure that's based solely on what an athlete is paid in return for being good at their sport, rather than how good they are at selling razor blades or breakfast cereal. Having rearranged the list, we find that the highest-paid Formula 1 driver, Fernando Alonso, is number 7 in the world with €21.5m.
Calculated like this, the highest paid sportsman in the world is Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback for NFL team the Green Bay Packers. The 30-year old Californian isn't a huge name outside North America, but at just over €33m a year, his salary and bonuses approach three times those of Tiger Woods.
In fact the top three are all NFL players. At number 2 there's Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, with nearly €31m a year, followed by Joe Flacco from the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco, 29, earns €27.6m. The only non-NFL player in the top 5 is boxer Floyd Mayweather on €26.1m. All of the top 6 are from the USA.
Two F1 drivers scrape into the top 25; Fernando and Lewis Hamilton , who gets by on €20m a year. According to a list published by a Spanish newspaper in May, Jenson Button is the third highest paid driver on €16m, but once you get past the top 10, earnings drop quite dramatically. Valtteri Bottas is paid €600,000, and everyone below him is on half a million or less. The Caterham drivers are paid €150,000.
Back to the world's top 25, and, perhaps surprisingly, it's not until you get down to number 22 that a soccer player puts in an appearance; Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is on €17.7m. The NFL dominates the earnings league table, and the MLB's Alex Rodriguez comes in at number 6 with €22.9m.
So the next time you feel a pang of jealousy over the earnings of an F1 driver, remember that very few of them are paid anywhere near what the world's top earners get - and some of them are risking their lives for a pittance.
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