Revealed: The top 10 highest-paid drivers on the Formula 1 grid

Jamie Woodhouse
The start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Max Verstappen leads the pack at the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

For the first time since 2013, Lewis Hamilton has slipped from top spot as Forbes revealed the 10 highest-paid Formula 1 drivers.

The 2022 season perhaps did not quite deliver the desired excitement levels following sweeping regulation changes, but Max Verstappen certainly delivered as he cruised to his second World Championship in as many years.

Such was his dominance, Verstappen secured his second title at the Japanese GP when four rounds of the season still remained, setting a new record for the highest number of victories in a single season with 15, the record formerly co-held by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher with 13.

And Verstappen’s heroics did not go unrewarded financially either, the Red Bull driver usurping his 2021 rival and seven-time World Champion Hamilton at the top of Forbes’ list.

Forbes generate their driver earnings estimates without factoring in any income from personal endorsements, though even still, the top 10 in this list are sitting pretty with Forbes citing a 25% increase in combined earnings compared to last year, with an estimated $264 million split up between them.

Estimates are generated in collaboration with data organisation Formula Money, based on legal filings, financial documents, press leaks and information from industry insiders. These are pre-tax estimates.

So, without further ado, it is time to meet Formula 1’s 10 best-earning drivers for 2022.

1. Max Verstappen

Earnings: $60m

Hamilton had been enjoying life as Formula 1’s highest earner since 2013, but with Verstappen setting a new standard on the track, he is doing the same financially.

Forbes state that on top of a basic salary of $40m, Verstappen raked in an additional $20m through bonuses in his record-breaking season.

2. Lewis Hamilton

Earnings: $55m

Forbes’ information shows that Hamilton’s base salary is significantly higher than Verstappen’s at $55m, but the Mercedes driver has dropped from top spot after a year without bonuses.

Mercedes were unable to build a title-contending challenger in the W13, with Hamilton finishing a Formula 1 season win-less for the first time in his career.

3. Fernando Alonso

Earnings: $30m

Coming in third is Alonso, who had far more luck with his finances in 2022 than with the reliability of his Alpine A522.

Believing he was minus 60 points thanks to Alpine’s reliability woes, that even before his retirements in Mexico and Abu Dhabi, Alonso was at least paid well for his troubles in that final season at Enstone, his basic salary of $30m making up his earnings.

4. Sergio Perez

Earnings: $26m

Perez is hoovering up the cash thanks to a bonus pot which significantly outweighed his basic Red Bull salary.

Receiving $10m as standard, Perez then collected a further $16m in bonuses in a season where he won two races, helped Red Bull to their first Constructors’ title since 2013 and played the team game as Verstappen charged to title glory, all of that rewarding the Mexican racer handsomely.

5. Charles Leclerc

Earnings: $23m

The Monaco native may have been frustrated to see his title challenge crumble, not entirely of own his fault, though partially, but his earnings for the year certainly do not make for disappointment.

On top of his $12m salary, Leclerc earned another $11m in bonuses in a season which yielded three race wins and P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, Ferrari matching that position in the Constructors’ standings.

=6. Sebastian Vettel

Earnings: $17m

Formula 1 waved goodbye to Vettel following the Abu Dhabi GP, the four-time World Champion departing with a hefty pay packet banked.

Paid a basic salary of $15m by Aston Martin for his final Formula 1 season, Vettel earned an extra $2m in bonuses despite Aston Martin falling short of expectations, managing only P7 in the standings and without a podium finish for the year.

=6. Daniel Ricciardo

Earnings: $17m

Tied with Vettel is another multi-time race winner who now departs the grid, hopefully not permanently, in the form of Ricciardo.

It was a dismal second and final season with McLaren for the Aussie, who had his contract terminated a year early. He now returns to Red Bull to serve as their third driver.

Still, a salary of $15m and bonuses totalling $2m will have gone a long way to softening the blow.

8. Carlos Sainz

Earnings: $15m

Sainz endured a rather frustrating 2022 season, spending much of it struggling to extract the final few tenths which he needed to match the performances of team-mate Leclerc, though he did pick up a solitary win at Silverstone, the first of his career.

Financially though his season was a real success, his salary of $8m boosted significantly by $7m in bonuses.

9. Lando Norris

Earnings: $11m

McLaren were tipped as a dark horse for 2022 with heavily revised regulations in play, though once again they found themselves battling to finish ‘best of the rest’, ultimately forced to settle for P5 with that honour going to Alpine.

Still, it was another impressive campaign for Norris, who was the only driver outside of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to finish on the podium in 2022, doing so with a P3 finish at Imola.

Norris’ bank balance will also be impressive after he pocketed a salary of $5m and a further $6m in bonuses.

10. George Russell

Earnings: $10m

And rounding out the list is Russell after his first season as a full-time Mercedes driver.

Earning $3m through his standard salary, Russell claimed Mercedes’ only victory of the season and his first win with a mighty display at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, winning the sprint and then the main event on Sunday, all of this factoring into his bonus pot of $7m.

Russell would finish P4 in the 2022 Drivers’ standings, 35 points clear of Hamilton.

Can Lewis Hamilton return to the Formula 1 summit in 2023?

2022 was certainly an off year for Mercedes as the revised regulations dumped them behind Red Bull and Ferrari, though Hamilton’s performances, particularly as the season went on, suggested that the events of Abu Dhabi in 2021 have not knocked him off his stride.

With the United States and Sao Paulo GPs proving to be particular highlights, Hamilton will now set about chasing that record-breaking eighth World Championship once more in 2023, which if he achieves it, will likely put him back on top in Formula 1 financially and very much so statistically, since he already holds a host of records including most race wins, poles and podiums.

His current tally of seven World Championships ties him with the legendary Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton and Verstappen proved that old wounds have not fully healed when they collided during the 2022 Sao Paulo GP, so if Mercedes provide the car as they are setting out to do, then for Hamilton, the fight and will to win is still very much there, and we may well be treated to the next instalment of his rivalry.

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