Formula One, or F1, is the pinnacle of racing sanctioned by the FIA. F1 drivers are supremely talented individuals, who drive the fastest road course racing cars in the world, reaching speeds of up to 220 mph (360 km/h) and sometimes being subjected to in excess of 5 g in corners. However, these skills are richly rewarded, and at the top end of the sport, drivers earn lucrative salaries, comparable to the best paid boxers, basketball players and footballers.
Founded in 1906, Formula One has grown to become hugely popular, with the last drivers championship having a global television audience of 425 million. With such popularity and profile comes major merchandising and endorsement deals. The economic climate of F1 has bankrupted several teams, but is generally considered profitable for most involved and is also seen as excellent marketing.
F1 drivers are the best auto racing drivers in the world, although salaries between those at the top and bottom of the sport fluctuate massively. In 2014, it was revealed that Sebastien Vettel earned a staggering 30 times more than his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, despite the fact Ricciardo finished higher than Vettel last season. The best paid Formula One drivers earn well in excess of the top NASCAR or IndyCar drivers, with IndyCar drivers only earning, on average, a tenth of their F1 counterparts.
10 Nico Rosberg - $30 million
9 Sebastian Vettel - $45 million
8 T7. David Coulthard - $70 million
7 T7. Alain Prost - $70 million
6 Jenson Button - $100 million
5 Lewis Hamilton - $110 million
Like Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton looks set to multiply his already vast wealth over the coming years. His most recent contract with Mercedes is worth a base salary of $30.1 million a year, with performance related bonuses worth up to $10 million a year. On recent form, Hamilton looks set to pick up $40.1 million a year. The 30-year-old became world champion for the second time last year, and leads in the early days of this seasons championship also. In 2007, Hamilton moved to the tax-haven of Switzerland, before relocating to another tax-haven, Monaco, in 2012. In 2013, he acquired a private jet, a Bombardier Challenger 600 series.
4 T3. Eddie Irvine - $180 million
3 T3. Kimi Raikkonen - $180 million
2 Fernando Alonso - $220 million
1 Michael Schumacher - $780 million
Statistically the greatest driver in Formula One history, Michael Schumacher is a very distant top spot on this list. In fact, Schumacher's wealth equates to 43% of the entire top 10. Such is the German's financial clout, he has donated more money than most on this list are worth, and was at one stage thought to be the first ever billionaire sportsman, although such claims appear slightly wide of the mark. A seven time world champion, Schumacher is the most successful driver in F1 history and the third wealthiest sportsman of all time, behind only Ion Tiriac and Michael Jordan.
He began F1 racing in 1991 and didn't retire until 2012, although he did take a four year break between 2006 and 2010. Over 19 seasons, he raced for Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes, winning two championships with Benetton and five with Ferrari. Schumacher suffered a serious head injury whilst skiing in December 2013 and has been receiving regular treatment ever since, although he is said to have severe brain injuries, as well as being paralyzed and wheelchair-bound; we wish him a speedy-recovery of course.
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