Formula 1 team principals have always been somewhat in the spotlight. They’re an integral part of an F1 team, and they’re often the main face of it in the media, other than the drivers of course. This leaves many fans wondering how much money F1 team principals earn.
F1 team principals typically earn anywhere from $1 million to $10 million, but it’s hard to know the specific numbers as team principals don’t disclose their salaries. How much an F1 team principal earns depends on the team’s finances, how well it performs, and the team principal’s experience.
Like in any organization, those with more experience at well-funded F1 teams (Red Bull) or factory-backed ones (Mercedes, Alpine) are going to earn more than those who are working with smaller or emerging teams. Before we talk more about the numbers, what do F1 team principals actually do?
The team principal in Formula 1 is responsible for all operations of the team. Each department reports to the team principal. His or her role is vitally important for the team’s success through discussions with the governing body, the FIA, and among other teams.
It is the team principal that negotiates their F1 drivers’ salaries and is also responsible for managing budgets. The 2022 season sees the Formula 1 Cost Cap reduced to $140 million (about £103 million). However, this won’t affect the salaries of those at the top of the tree.
The cap covers on-track, manufacturing and standard staff costs only. It doesn’t include marketing costs, driver salaries, and the salaries of the top three staff members (of which one would be the team principal). This will decrease by a further $5 million in 2023. Before the cost cap was introduced, it was reported the top teams were spending in excess of $400 million per year.
F1 team principals don’t normally own the team. Of the 10 current F1 teams, there is only one team principal known to have an ownership stake in his team – Toto Wolff at Mercedes with a 33% stake. The others are usually owned by parent companies (e.g. McLaren and the McLaren Group).
In days gone by, there were notable lines blurred between team ownership and team principal, and Ron Dennis is the classic example. Between 1981 and 2009 he was the team principal at McLaren, but also held roles as CEO, Chairman and founder of the McLaren Group.
The other was the symbiotic partnership between Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head at Williams, where Head was a shareholder while being Technical Director and ran the team during Frank’s rehabilitation from his road accident in 1986.
The majority of teams in the modern era are owned by private equity firms. Alfa-Romeo and Williams are owned by Sauber Motorsport AG and Dorilton Capital respectively. Others are owned by manufacturers (Alpine (Renault), Ferrari, and Mercedes) and other direct, private investors. Red Bull, Alpha Tauri, McLaren and Aston Martin can be placed in the latter category.
F1 team principals might not need specific qualifications, but they do need strong communication skills, high level problem solving, some legal understanding and an astute ear for the political environment within the Formula 1 paddock.
F1 team principals must be great leaders too. A Formula 1 team principal can be responsible for anywhere from 300 to almost 1,000 people. The pressures applied from owners, manufacturers, sponsors, and other teams mean that F1 team principals must be able to thrive under pressure and maintain their composure.
A Formula 1 team is a 24/7 operation, bringing upgrades between events, technical simulations, and during a race weekend there can be more personnel at home base assessing data in real time than there are at the racetrack. The F1 team principal’s job is to make sure all these departments operate cohesively, while also travelling the world weekend in, weekend out.
The team principal is the team’s public face (other than the two drivers) during a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend and an integral component that ensures the team operates as a unit. He or she is the ‘go to’ for heads of each department.
As an F1 team principal, at any one point you could be required to wear multiple hats. This could be anything from an HR manager to legal eagle, media performer to politician, diplomat to lobbyist, engineer to technician.
On a race weekend it will involve briefings with the engineering team and drivers, engaging with sponsors and their guests, global media commitments and plenty of meetings. With Formula 1 visiting 23 locations around the world in 2022, being adept in local culture and customs so you can interact with local sponsors and event organizers is paramount.
Communicating With The FIA
As recent seasons have shown, team principals’ communications with the dedicated FIA race director play a major role during a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Each of the 10 principals are always pushing their team’s case to the race director, who is further communicating with the stewards of the race to establish (ideally) the best outcome for on-track incidents.
One of the most important roles the team principal undertakes is negotiating with the governing body – the FIA (Federation Internationale de Automobile) – when incidents occur on or off the track. The technical and sporting regulations are controlled by the FIA.
It is hard to be an F1 team principal with all of the various responsibilities they have, but how hard it is often depends on how successful the team is at that time. Years of study and work through various forms of motorsport and business prepare F1 team principals for the job they take on.
There is no such thing as an overnight success in the role, as team principals of smaller teams may never even see the podium. But even just being an F1 team principal makes you a member of a very small club. In the modern era, only 10 people globally can call themselves a Formula 1 team principal.
Plenty Of Responsibility
There is a lot riding on every single decision made by the team principal, including the livelihoods of hundreds of team members and the safety of their Formula 1 drivers. You’re also keeping an eye on large scale budgets – Mercedes reportedly contributes $100 million to its program every year – along with a string of multi-million dollar sponsors you see around the team.
So, now that we’ve established what it takes to be an F1 team principal, let’s talk about how much the F1 team principals at the current top 5 teams get paid.
Christian Horner is the highest paid F1 team principal, earning around $10 million per year. Toto Wolff is the second highest paid F1 team principal, earning a salary of around $9.1 million per year. Toto’s investments outside of F1 mean he has the highest net worth of all F1 team principals.
Part of the mystique of F1 is there are these perceived ‘walls’ that block a lot of information from becoming public. Having a full understanding of what each Formula 1 team principal earns is no different, but there are ways we can base each figure on various reports and anecdotal evidence.
Don’t forget that these men and women are astute businesspeople, so their investments can vary widely outside their day-to-day job. This is why you might see net worth figures of F1 team principals that don’t seem to add up when you consider their salaries. Toto Wolff is a prime example of this, so let’s start with him.
Toto Wolff Salary And Net Worth
Salary: $9.1 million | Net Worth: $580 million
Toto Wolff is in the rare position as a shareholder in his Formula 1 team. He bumped up his ownership from 30% to 33% during 2021 due to investment from INEOS – the second largest chemical production company in the world – decreasing the stake owned by Daimler.
Wolff is a tech entrepreneur who raced in GT racing, winning a class at the Nürburgring 24 Hour. He formerly owned a minority stake in HWA – the company that builds AMG Customer Sports racing products – including GT3, GT4, junior formulae engines and DTM. He sold his stake back to founder, Hans-Werner Aufrecht, in 2015.
He’s married to Susie Wolff, a British racing driver who raced F3, DTM and tested a Williams Formula 1 car. Toto has invested in the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team, which will cease in August 2022 after the eighth season of the all-electric city-based racing series. He also has a stake in the largest rally parts supply company in Europe, Baumschlager Rallye Racing (BRR).
In 2017, Wolff exited his role in a driver management company held with double Formula 1 World Champion, Mika Hakkinen, and the Finn’s manager, Didier Coton, when Mercedes signed another Finnish driver, Valtteri Bottas.
Christian Horner Salary And Net Worth
Salary: $10 million | Net Worth: $50 million
Christian Horner has been the team principal at Red Bull Racing since 2005 and has presided over each of its five World Championship successes (4 team and 5 driver World Championships). He is married to Spice Girl Gerri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice.
Although looking after the Red Bull Racing team operationally, Horner works hand in hand with Dr. Helmut Marko, a Le Mans 24 Hour winner and Formula 1 driver in the 1970s. As advisor to Red Bull owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, Marko is the rainmaker for Red Bull Racing and is the head of their driver development program.
As a team manager, Christian Horner has a long background in many categories, coming through the ranks having retired as a driver at 25. He is best known for his results at Arden International across many categories, including Formula 2 (GP2), A1 Grand Prix and Formula 3000.
2022 will represent a big challenge for Horner as the power unit division will be taken care of by Red Bull Powertrains. Honda will continue to lend its IP to Red Bull in 2022, before the new entity takes complete control in 2023.
Mattia Binotto Salary And Net Worth
Salary: $3 million | Net Worth: $5-6 million
Mattia Binotto has been a career-long Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 man, having joined the team in 1995 as part of the engine department, he joined the main squad in 1997 and became team principal in 2019.
Binotto graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1994, and he then went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Motor Vehicle Engineering. During the development of the current power units used in Formula 1, he headed up the KERS and engine development outfit.
Andreas Seidl Salary And Net Worth
Salary: $2 million | Net Worth: $6.5 million
German engineer Andreas Seidl is the voice of serenity we hear from the McLaren F1 pit wall during telecasts and unquestionably one of the most qualified team principals in the Formula 1 paddock.
Simultaneously, Seidl led Porsche to LMP1 victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the FIA World Endurance Championship over three consecutive years (2015-2017) after being appointed team principal in 2014.
The appointment at McLaren is a return to Formula 1 for Seidl, having been at BMW between 2000 and 2006, then BMW-Sauber from 2006-2009 before going on to lead the Munich marque’s return to DTM after a 20 year absence.
He’s joined in the management operations at McLaren by IndyCar Champion, Gil de Ferran, and experienced Formula 1 technical director, James Key. Seidl reports to gregarious CEO and motorsport marketing guru, Zak Brown.
F1 drivers do earn more than team principals in many cases. The F1 team principal may be responsible for managing the operations of the team, but the driver is the one on the track, and also the one that brings a lot of the sponsorship money, which usually means they earn a higher salary.
At the top end of the scale, drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso, and Daniel Ricciardo earn more than their team principals. Lewis Hamilton reportedly earns around $55 million per year, while Max Verstappen earns around half that. However, not all drivers make 8 figures per year, and less experienced drivers may earn less than their team principals.
For example, it is reported that Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly is on $5 million per year, whereas his teammate Yuki Tsunoda’s salary for 2021 was around $500,000. Gasly has been in the Red Bull frame for many years and Tsunoda was a rookie in 2021.
In the case of the Formula 1 teams further down the grid, there’s a fair chance that the team principal earns more than their drivers, but it is all scaled against budget, sponsorship and on track performance.
The F1 cost cap is going to assist in reducing the gap between teams’ spending, but it probably won’t have much of an effect – if any – on the salaries of team principals and drivers. The role of the F1 team principal will continue to increase in complexity as time goes on, so salaries for F1 team principals may also increase.
F1 team principals earn anywhere from $1-10 million, and the amount they earn depends largely on how well the team performs, how much experience they have, and how many key roles they play in the team. The highest paid team principal is Christian Horner, earning around $10 million per year.