Formula 1 drivers could be forced to take salary cuts as the top flight increasingly tightens its belts in reaction to the credit crunch currently sweeping the globe.
In the wake of Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from the sport earlier this month, governing body the FIA is determined to make sure that no more teams follow suit by slashing annual budgets by 30 per cent in 2009 and 50 per cent in 2010. With testing, engines and aerodynamic development all already facing cutbacks, the same would now appear to be the case for driver pay packets.
2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen's present deal with Ferrari is believed to be worth more than $30m per season, and prior to the Japanese outfit's collapse, Jenson Button had inked a new £8 million-a-year, three-year contract with Honda.
“I feel in the current climate the big teams won't have the ability any more to think of offering certain amounts of money that some drivers get,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed in an interview with Italian magazine Autosprint
“Discussions can be held on this issue. Anything can be modified in life; the important thing is wanting to do it. I'm convinced this issue will soon be discussed among all the teams and with every driver.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug has admitted that job losses could also result from the economic downturn. As many as 750 employees at Honda alone stand to lose their posts should the Brackley-based concern fail to find a buyer in time for the 2009 campaign.
“The cost reductions will not be without the loss of appointments,” the 56-year-old told German newspaper the Frankfurter Rundschau