The money certainly flows in Formula 1, and the lengths that some teams are prepared to go to in their salary payments to their star drivers are simply eye-watering.

Three of the grid’s World Champions – Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – are not surprisingly at the top of the list, with all three holding multi-year, multi-million dollar deals. While Alonso has the highest base salary, performance clauses reportedly in Hamilton and Vettel’s contracts could see both drivers out-earn the Spaniard in 2017.

Their salaries are still small change compared to the astronomical $90 million retainer commanded by Michael Schumacher during his championship-winning dominance at Ferrari.

By contrast 2007 title-winner Kimi Räikkönen is a comparatively lower earner, with a 2017 base salary of $7 million. The figure is marked reduction on his 2016 retainer, although it is understood that the Finn has around $10 million in performance bonuses up for grabs to keep him motivated.

Vettel, Räikkönen  and Alonso will be the biggest players in the 2017 ‘silly season’, with all three drivers’ current contracts set to expire this year.

A number of drivers in lower-ranking teams – most notably Romain Grosjean and Sergio Pérez – opted to sign one-year contract extensions to be on the market as potential candidates if a better seat opens up further up the grid. Doing so dramatically reduces their potential earning power with their current employers, who would be unwilling to pay a high retainer unless they can lock their star drivers down on a long term deal.

Contrastingly, Max Verstappen’s earnings jumped markedly from 2016 thanks to securing a ‘multi year’ agreement with Red Bull Racing. The Dutch youngster is one of the hottest properties in the sport and it is little surprise that Red Bull was prepared to open the chequebook during the contract renegotiation process.

Another driver to enjoy a significant salary increase is Valtteri Bottas, thanks to his sudden call-up to Mercedes in the wake of Nico Rosberg’s retirement. The Finn reportedly went from a $2 million retainer to $5 million with the switch, but stands to earn considerably more is his performances trigger the bonus clauses that are believed to exist in his contract.

Felipe Massa leveraged Williams’ loss of Bottas to Mercedes to un-retire when the Grove team needed an experienced driver to pit alongside its rookie signing Lance Stroll. With Stroll’s father Lawrence reportedly bankrolling his son’s drive to the tune of $30 million, Massa agreed to return on a reduced base of $3.5 million.

Lower down the list are a number of drivers who are on very basic retainers. F1 rookie Stoffel Vandoorne will boost his earnings if he can deliver strong performances from the recalcitrant McLaren-Honda, while Mercedes protégés Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein are kept on low retainers from Mercedes while being loaned out to Force India and Sauber respectively.

Driver Team / Entry 2017 Salary Contract
1. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda $40 million 2015-2017
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas $31 million (plus bonuses) 2016-2018
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari $30 million (plus bonuses) 2015-2017
4. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas $8.5 million 2017
5. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari $7 million (plus bonuses) 2017
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing $6.5 million (plus bonuses) 2017-2018
7. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing $3.5 million 2017
8. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 $3 million 2017
9. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing $3 million (plus bonuses) 2016-2018
10. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India $2.5 million 2015-2017
11. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team $1.5 million 2017
12. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team $1 million 2017
13. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 $1 million 2017
14. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso $750,000 2017
15. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso $750,000 2017
16. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda $300,000 (plus bonuses) 2017
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari $285,000 2017
18. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India $185,000 2017
19. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team $150,000 2017
20. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Unknown 2017

Image via XPB Images

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Site co-founder. Social Media guru. All-round trouble-maker.