'We risk our lives' - Verstappen slams 'completely wrong' F1 driver salary cap

Reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen says the possible introduction of a driver salary cap would be “completely wrong” because drivers risk their lives to create a show for the sport. 
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Driver salaries are not currently included in F1’s $140m budget cap for 2022 but there is growing talk of a push to introduce a pay cap on the drivers in the coming years. 

At the Monaco Grand Prix, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso questioned the timing of a possible salary cap when F1 is “asking more and more” from the drivers to help promote the world championship. Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Verstappen - who recently signed a lucrative new contract to keep him at Red Bull until at least 2028 - made it clear he doesn’t think a driver cap is a route F1 should go down. 

“It’s still all a bit vague,” Verstappen said. “I think no one really knows where it is going to go but from my side, it’s completely wrong. 

“I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM. Everyone is benefitting, so why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped? 

“We actually bring the show and put our lives at risk, because we do, eventually. So for me, it’s completely wrong.” 

Verstappen also highlighted concerns about how such a move could end up having a knock-on effect for young drivers seeking the backing required to help them reach F1. 

“Also, in all of the junior categories, if you see how many of the drivers have a sponsor or a backer who will have a certain percentage of their income in F1 or whatever,” he said. 

“I think it’s going to limit that a lot because they’ll never get their return in money and if you get a cap, so it will hurt all the junior categories as well and I don’t think you want that.” 

Verstappen came third in FP2 on Friday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and his teammate Sergio Perez, who was fastest in FP1.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan,
Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan…

Lando Norris agreed with Max Verstappen

"I think Max explained it really well, I think mainly because I’ve not had to think about it probably as much as him,” Lando Norris added.

“I think what he’s said is correct, especially the investment part into young drivers. It’s difficult enough to get into F1 at all, so as soon as you have a backer or investment as a driver, they obviously want their money back at some point. 

“Obviously if it gets capped, it’s much harder or will interest people much less to ever invest into young drivers and invest into people having chances to get into F1 in the first place.” 

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz described the idea as “illogical” due to how rapidly the sport is growing in recent years.

“More than anything, is it the right thing to do nowadays?” Sainz explained. “If you tell me Formula 1 is in crisis because of COVID and the sport is going in a bad direction, the drivers are earning too much for what the sport is generating, I would tell you maybe there’s a chance or a point where we can all agree that maybe there is something that can be done.

“But when the sport is booming – you guys in Miami, you saw the amount of events, the amount of things we were doing, how busy we’ve been recently as racing drivers, and we just keep hearing that the championship is going to grow to 25 races… even 30 in the future… and now when the sport is booming you want to cap us?

“I find it a very illogical idea right now, and an idea that makes very little sense for where the sport is at the moment.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit,
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8,…

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton agreed with the aforementioned views, stating that he didn't want the younger generation to be impacted by a salary cap.

“It’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t really have all the facts and I haven’t really spent time thinking too much about it,” Hamilton said. “I can’t give you a factual answer on that, what is right or what is wrong.

“I think there have been many of us that have been here who had been heavily invested in as youngsters and had to pay that back which you’d naturally want to do anyways so that for sure could be impacted in the future for the younger generation.

“Also, you have to remember that this sport has gone from $4-6bn to a $14bn business - it’s consistently growing, the teams are growing more money than ever before and we are a huge part of that. I won’t be here for a huge amount longer but I do think about the younger generation and I don’t feel they should be capped.” 

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel added: “I think it’s wrong to have a salary cap for the reasons that Lewis mentioned. I think it’s interesting if you follow up where it’s coming from, this proposal. Obviously, we have a budget cap now which pushes the model towards earnings towards all of the teams.

“I think maybe they should be capped on having certain fixed earnings and everything beyond that should go to a certain pool to do great things with it and have a positive impact. As a suggestion, I can imagine that the response would be… the topic would disappear so I will leave it to you.”

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