Reigning Formula One world champion Max Verstappen has slammed the idea of capping driver salaries as a method for saving money in the sport, saying it would have a negative impact on young drivers attempting to break into motorsport’s top category.
F1 introduced a budget cap last year to curb spending among the sport’s top teams and level the playing field across the grid. The cap currently stands at $140 million per year but there are exemptions, including marketing spend, driver salaries and the salaries of the top three earners in the team.
The cap has already proved controversial, with inflationary pressure since the start of the year leading some teams to ask for an adjustment.
However, longer term F1 is considering adding a driver salary cap, which would effectively limit drivers’ earning potential. No agreement has been made, but several teams have supported the idea in public.
Verstappen, who recently signed a new Red Bull contract until the end of 2028 worth in the region of $40-50 million a year, believes the idea of a driver salary cap is wrong as the drivers deserve to benefit from F1’s booming popularity.
“I think no one really knows where it is going to go but from my side, it’s completely wrong,” Verstappen said. “I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM [Formula One Management].
“Everyone is benefitting, so why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped? We actually bring the show and put our lives at risk, because we do, eventually. So for me, it’s completely wrong.”
Verstappen also warned that it would limit sponsorship opportunities for young drivers hoping to make F1, who rely on money from backers to pay for their progress through junior categories in exchange for a cut of their potential future earnings in F1.
“Also in all of the junior categories, if you see how many of the drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will have a certain percentage of their income in F1 or whatever,” he said. “I think it’s going to limit that a lot because they’ll never get their return in money and if you get a cap, so it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don’t think you want that.”
Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton added: “I think there are many of us here who have been heavily invested in as youngsters and have had to pay that back, which you would naturally want to do anyway. So that for sure could be impacted in the future for the younger genertation.
“Also you have to remember that this sport is going from a $4-6 billion business to a $14 billion business. It’s consistently growing and the teams are earning more money than ever before, and we are a huge part of that. I won’t be here for a huge amount longer, but I do think about the younger generation and I don’t think that they should be capped.”
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel hinted that teams are simply trying to increase their own profits with the salary cap proposal rather than benefit the sport.
“I think it’s wrong to have a salary cap for the reasons Lewis mentioned. I think it’s interesting if you follow up where it is coming from, this proposal.
“Obviously we have a budget cap now, which pushes the model towards earnings for all the teams, and I think maybe they should be capped in terms of having certain fixed earnings and everything beyond that should go to a pool to do great things and have a positive impact. That’s a suggestion but I can imagine what the response would be and the topic would disappear.
“But isn’t it a funny coincidence that the first time the teams can make money with racing in Formula One, something like the salary cap for drivers pops up? Just thinking, isn’t that funny?”