Wolff firmly in favour of F1 driver salary cap

Jon Wilde
Toto Wolff speaking during a press conference. Baku June 2022.

Toto Wolff speaking during a press conference at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku June 2022.

Toto Wolff is fully behind the idea of a driver salary cap in Formula 1, citing American sports as an example of why it would work.

Drivers’ pay is currently excluded from the budget cap for constructors, which stands at $140million for the 2022 campaign.

For the top teams like Mercedes and Red Bull, the wages for their drivers represents another huge outlay. Lewis Hamilton was reported last year by Forbes to be earning $62million, while the new contract Max Verstappen has signed with Red Bull through to 2028 is said to be worth 40 million euros each year.

Verstappen himself has said bringing in a driver salary cap would be “completely wrong” because he and the other racers “put their lives at risk”, but Wolff sees the other side of the argument in respect of the rising costs being incurred by teams that impact upon all of their staff.

“Certainly it has come up as a controversial topic,” the Mercedes team principal told reporters in Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“We can see we are facing a very difficult situation in Formula 1 overall, the sport is booming and Formula 1 is earning more money and that is trickling down to the teams, but we have a cost cap.

“We have $140million for 1,000 people, with inflation – we haven’t even been able to pay the inflation. And I think the talk about [even a] $30-40million salary allowance is inadequate when you take that perspective.

“Now clearly drivers will have an opinion on that, and maybe as a driver I would say the same thing.

“But the US leagues that are the most successful in the world introduced salary caps 15 years ago. It works pretty well over there.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, tries to pass George Russell, Mercedes. Barcelona May 2022.
Max Verstappen's Red Bull on the outside of George Russell's Mercedes during the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona May 2022.

Wolff feels there is still some way to go before the framework for a driver salary cap can be put in place.

“Formula 1 is looking at it without an immediate solution to it,” said the Austrian. “But I think like all the other sports in the world, we need to find a way of how we can act sustainably and become independent from sovereign funds or state-owned teams.

“Therefore it’s certainly clear it will be one of the main areas because you can’t simply have a [driver] salary bill in some of the top teams that is $30/40/50million when the rest of the team has to be divided by $140million.

“Having said that, they [the drivers] are tremendous superstars, they deserve to be among the top earners in the sport in terms of direct salaries. They already are.

“And then we need to find a way of unlocking the endorsement, the capability of doing endorsement deals, which is two-thirds, if not more [of sportspeople’s earnings] for US sport teams – but direct salaries, Formula 1 drivers are paid the most.”