Formula 1 and NASCAR are two of the most lucrative racing disciplines, with teams paying drivers extortionate amounts in the hope that they will bring them success. Drivers also bring in money from high paying sponsorship deals, but you may wonder if F1 drivers make more money than NASCAR drivers.
F1 drivers do tend to make more money than NASCAR drivers. The highest salaries in F1 approach $50 million per year, while the highest NASCAR salaries are under $20 million. F1’s lowest salary, about $750,000, is also much higher than beginner NASCAR salaries, which can be in the low 6-figures.
In this article we will discuss the wages of both F1 and NASCAR drivers, as well as taking a closer look into the differences between the two disciplines. We’ll also provide comparisons between the top earners in both motorsports.
Are F1 Drivers Better Than NASCAR Drivers?
It’s very difficult to compare the driving skills of both F1 and NASCAR drivers, as they are competing in different disciplines with very different cars. Formula 1 tracks are far more intricate than NASCAR ovals, although NASCAR is racing on an increasing number of road courses.
NASCAR races often take place on banked oval tracks, even though there are a few road tracks. This doesn’t necessarily make the racing any easier, as they must jostle their way through 39 other cars. In F1, there is a huge gulf in the ability of the cars at the front of the grid to the ones at the back, making it easier for drivers from the top teams to get ahead.
The similarities of the cars in the NASCAR field puts more of an onus on the driver’s ability rather than the capability of the car that they are driving. This gives more of an indication of the standout performers in the discipline. However, you can’t win an F1 Championship with a sub-standard driver, as has been proved many a time with drivers consistently outperforming their teammates.
You could make the case that F1 drivers have to be more technically astute in order to deal with the complexity of the tracks they race on. To do well in a race they will have to nail each corner with maximum precision, braking and accelerating at the correct times. They’ll also have to ensure they find the correct racing line, all while trying to avoid contact with the other 19 cars on the track.
NASCAR drivers don’t have to be as precise with their movements. The weight and robust nature of the cars mean that they have a little more leeway in terms of the contact they make with the other cars, as slight bumps won’t derail their race in the same manner as if they were driving fragile F1 cars.
Despite this, extremely high concentration levels will be needed in order to be successful, as the packed field means you can quickly fall out of reach of the front of the pack if you make an error. NASCAR drivers will also have to map out a racing line if they want to break away, even on an oval track. Slipstream is more prevalent with the larger cars, which is another thing to keep in mind.
F1 drivers will have the track layout and their desired racing line imprinted into their brain before they even get into the car. They’ll also need to have a clear knowledge of where the DRS zones are, as well as knowing when to deploy their energy recovery system (ERS).
NASCAR drivers won’t have to memorize the oval track to the same level as F1 drivers and will also have an increased level of visibility as the seat position is higher up. They’ll still have to go into the race with a solid knowledge of their race strategy, and even oval tracks will have the optimum racing lines to take.
Formula 1 drivers are some of the fittest athletes on the planet, with bodies capable of dealing with extreme G-forces when cornering and braking. During a race they will have to cope with up to 6 G’s, which is the equivalent of pushing back against six times their own body weight. They will also sweat profusely, sometimes losing around 2-3 kg (4-6 lbs) in a race through sweat alone.
NASCAR drivers will also experience high G-forces because of the speeds they travel at, meaning they will also have to keep to fitness, diet, and hydration regimes. They won’t quite experience the same level of G-forces pushing against them as an F1 driver, but they will have to be physically capable of lasting the duration of a race, which can last more than 3 hours.
The most obvious difference between Formula 1 and NASCAR is in the cars that they drive. NASCAR cars are larger and heavier, with far less downforce than F1 cars. This makes them harder to control when turning, as the grip is compromised. F1 cars are designed with corners in mind, with a streamlined body adding to the downforce created by the front and rear wings and the complex floors.
F1 cars are much more technologically advanced, with steering wheels containing a multitude of buttons with a variety of functions. F1 drivers will have to be good multitaskers if they want to do well. NASCAR cars are less technologically sophisticated, which gives them less support in certain situations, but also means they can always apply 100% of their focus on the racing.
These differences mean that an F1 driver wouldn’t be able to jump into a NASCAR car and start achieving great results instantly, and vice versa. Both disciplines require a lot of time spent behind the wheel of their cars to learn their intricacies and how far you can push them in different situations. Drivers in both disciplines are at the top of their game, making direct comparisons unfair.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR and F1 drivers are all exceptionally talented
• It’s hard to compare the two disciplines because there are so many massive differences between them
• In both series, drivers must be very fit and have incredible driving skills in order to succeed
How Much Money Do F1 Drivers Earn?
Along with their global fame and adoration, F1 drivers receive huge salaries. The amount they earn per year differs depending on the driver and the team they race for. The top established performers at the richest teams can earn tens of millions for their services, while even the lowest paid drivers will still be earning a more than comfortable living.
The difference in wages between the top and bottom of the grid is huge though, with 2022’s lowest paid driver Yuki Tsunoda earning around $750,000 a year, while the three highest paid drivers are all earning more than $20 million. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are unsurprisingly the highest earners in the sport.
Alongside the wages they get paid by their teams, F1 drivers are widely sought after by brands to endorse various products such as watches, clothing ranges and even, in now-retired driver Mark Webber’s case, milk. These endorsements can bring in millions, especially for high-end luxury products, like watches and perfumes.
In early 2022, Max Verstappen signed an unprecedented six-year deal with Red Bull which sees him earn around $50 million a year. Drivers on multi-year contracts such as this was not overly common in the past, but with the increased commercialization of Formula 1 in recent years, drivers are seen as assets that the teams won’t want to let go of easily.
The deal came off the back of Verstappen’s maiden F1 Drivers’ Championship win after a controversial end to the 2021 season. Verstappen has said in the past that he would like to stay at Red Bull for the remainder of his career, and by the looks of it, it’s not something that Red Bull would be opposed to.
Prior to Verstappen’s new deal, seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton was the highest paid driver in F1, earning around $40 million a year. Hamilton has been the untouchable face of F1 for many years and is widely regarded as being one of the greatest to ever grace the sport. His record backs this up, as he has the most race wins in history, as well as the joint most Drivers’ Championships.
As Hamilton is in the twilight years of his career, it remains to be seen whether he will carry on when his contract expires after the 2023 season. If he chooses to remain in the sport, it will be interesting to see whether he will remain on such a high wage going forward.
Fernando Alonso And Lando Norris
Fernando Alonso is the oldest member of the grid and is currently proving that teams will pay the big bucks for the experience and racing pedigree that he brings to a team. Even at 41, Alonso is showing no signs of leaving the sport, kicking off 2022’s silly season when he announced that he would be racing for Aston Martin from 2023, replacing retiring four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso will be taking a pay cut to join Aston Martin, reducing his current wage of $20 million to around $18 million. Despite the pay cut, Alonso will remain one of the highest paid drivers on the grid.
Lando Norris is at the opposite end of his career, and has a contract running until 2025 with McLaren for around $20 million a year, which will take him above Fernando Alonso when he makes his move next season. Norris is seen as one of the hottest prospects in F1, and his bumper contract is undoubtedly a sign of McLaren’s faith in his potential.
How Much Money Do NASCAR Drivers Earn?
While the highest paid NASCAR drivers don’t earn as much as the top F1 drivers, they can still earn a very good wage. Beginner NASCAR salaries start at five to six figures, with established veteran drivers able to earn over $10 million a year. The wages in NASCAR are lower than F1 for a few reasons, with the first being that teams can employ up to four full-time drivers at the same time.
Having more seats available means that money needs to be shared out between more drivers, as it won’t be sustainable for teams to employ all four drivers on million-dollar salaries. NASCAR is also a national sport rather than an international sport, which means that teams won’t have access to a great deal of money coming in from overseas TV rights packages.
However, there are more ways for a driver to make extra income from NASCAR, including prize money for high race finishes. F1 doesn’t have a prize money pot after each race, and any bonuses a driver may receive would be through a clause in their contract. NASCAR drivers are also magnets for sponsors, meaning they can earn extra income through brand endorsements.
NASCAR also has multiple series in which drivers can take part, increasing their race participations, and therefore increasing the amount that they can earn.
After the highest paid NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson left the sport in 2020, Kyle Busch became the sport’s biggest earner. Raking in almost $17 million a year, Busch is the first person to have 60 wins in each of NASCAR’s top three series. Nicknamed ‘The Candy Man’ because of a long-term partnership with Mars, Busch has earned a substantial amount through sponsorships and endorsements.
Denny Hamlin earns around $13 million a year, making him the second highest paid NASCAR driver. At 41, Hamlin is a veteran of the sport, and has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs in all but one of the seasons in which he has been active. He is also a minority partner in the 23XI Racing team alongside basketball legend Michael Jordan.
The third highest earner, Kevin Harvick takes home around $11 million a year for his efforts. At 46 years old, Harvick is still winning races, showing no signs of decline with age. He has numerous sponsorships with major brands including Subway and Mobil 1. He currently drives a Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing.
F1 Driver vs NASCAR Driver Salaries
|Max Verstappen||F1||Red Bull||$50 million|
|Lewis Hamilton||F1||Mercedes||$40 million|
|Fernando Alonso / Lando Norris||F1||Alpine / McLaren||$20 million|
|Kyle Busch||NASCAR||Joe Gibbs Racing||$17 million|
|Denny Hamlin||NASCAR||Joe Gibbs Racing||$13 million|
|Kevin Harvick||NASCAR||Stewart-Haas Racing||$11 million|
NASCAR salaries are, overall, lower than F1 salaries. While the very best NASCAR drivers can earn a lot of money throughout the season, the average wage is a lot lower than it is for F1 drivers. This is in part down to the hugely wide appeal of Formula 1 as both a sport and a brand. Although watched by millions domestically, NASCAR is yet to make a dent in public appeal outside of the US.
The official F1 team merchandise is sold all around the world, bringing in a huge amount of money for the individual teams, and the two drivers in each team are the face of that. The lucrative broadcasting deals, as well as sponsorships from Middle Eastern oil companies, where the appeal for the sport is exponentially growing, means that there is more money to be spent on securing the top drivers.
There are also fewer drivers to pay, with two per team. This gives each driver a larger share of the income, as opposed to having to pay up to four drivers per team. Liberty Media’s acquisition of the Formula 1 rights in 2017 also pushed the sport forward, and with the Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’ taking off, the sport is at an all-time commercial high, with the drivers at the forefront.
Lower Paid Drivers
Perhaps the biggest example of the difference in wages is in the lowest paid drivers. Those at the start of their NASCAR journey may earn five to six figures a year at most, whereas the lowest paid F1 driver, Yuki Tsunoda, has a salary of $750,000 plus endorsements on top of that. Both sports are tough to break into, but the starting salary for F1 offers more financial security for newcomers.
Is F1 The Highest Paying Motorsport?
Formula 1 is the highest paying motorsport. F1 has been growing in popularity in recent years, drawing record crowds at multiple venues across the world. Teams are now even offering their prized drivers longer and more lucrative contracts, some up to $20-50 million per year.
This isn’t the case for most motorsports, with MotoGP seeing a reduction in overall driver wages, especially as well-paid riders, such as the great Valentino Rossi (now retired), are approaching the latter stages of their careers. IndyCar also offers a lot less money to drivers than F1, with champion drivers expecting to earn around $1 million a season.
KEY POINTS• F1 drivers earn, on average, a lot more than NASCAR drivers
• With fewer drivers and more money coming into the series as a whole, F1 teams are simply better prepared to pay higher salaries
• Drivers from both disciplines can still earn $10+ million per year
The highest paid F1 drivers do make more money than the highest paid NASCAR drivers. Due to F1’s global commercial appeal and smaller field of drivers, there is more money to be shared. NASCAR drivers can still earn $10 million or more per year from the sport as well as individual sponsorship deals.
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