Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Hamilton: Young F1 stars shouldn’t be “handicapped” by salary cap

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says young Formula 1 stars shouldn’t be “handicapped” by a cap on their salaries which the sport may introduce in the future.

Formula 1 teams have discussed introducing a potential combined cap of $30 million on their drivers’ salaries. No date has been set for its introduction.

However Hamilton, who is yet to sign a new deal to remain in F1 next year, expects it won’t come into force until after he leaves the sport. “I think currently the salary cap is supposed to be implemented probably when I’m not even here,” he said.

While similar caps have been introduced in other sports, Hamilton pointed out that, unlike in F1, those competitors retain control over their highly lucrative image rights.

“I do think that the drivers here are, naturally, the stars of the sport,” said Hamilton. “They’re the ones that are seen, those are the ones that bring their brands and their reputation helps elevate the sport and help it travel globally around the world.

“There have been salary caps in some of those [other] sports, I think like in NFL, basketball maybe. I think the one difference is that those places the individuals own their image in many areas, then they can try to maximise their image elsewhere. This sport controls, pretty much, the driver’s image.”

Hamilton said he is “not personally opposed” to the salary cap but pointed out it could limit the earning power of future drivers.

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“I do think about the next up-and-coming young stars that are coming through and I don’t particularly see why they shouldn’t be handicapped if they’re bringing something huge to the sport. It is a multi-billion dollar sport and they should be rewarded for what they do bring to it.”

Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
F1 drivers salaries 2020
The seven-times world champion indicated he is unlikely to leave Mercedes for a rival team in the future. He recently said he was “never really close” to joining Ferrari despite having discussions with the team in the past.

“I was never close at all to ever leaving my team,” he said. “I think it’s only right that us drivers, when you’re looking at your next [move] and committing to different times in your life, you have to analyse what your options are and make sure you have done your due diligence and have your pros and cons.

“I don’t necessarily know whether our values are aligned and timing just… it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not bothered by it.

“I’m so proud and grateful of the journey that I had with Mercedes. I think this is the only team in the history of the sport where you’re a long-life family member.

“If you look at the older greats that have been there for their whole lives, they’ve been a part of the Mercedes brand, you’re part of the road of evolution and they include you in the family forever. Loyalty, which I have tattooed, is a such huge part and such an important value to me.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Hamilton: Young F1 stars shouldn’t be “handicapped” by salary cap”

  1. “I think this is the only team in the history of the sport where you’re a long-life family member.”

    Lewis isn’t great with his history.

    1. @cduk_mugello
      Well, that’s true.
      Stirling Moss has been a Mercedes ambassador until his very last days.
      Same with Fangio and nowadays with Rosberg.
      Ferrari never showed much appreciation for its past champions and doesn’t have brand ambassadors.

  2. Handicapped, LOL?

  3. I understand Lewis’ point, but I still disagree. Drivers don’t need to be paid 30+ millions a year. 15,000,000 per driver would be more than enough and they wouldn’t exactly starve to death, would they?! Teams could use that valuable money and spend it on car development.

    Furthermore, I don’t think it’s fair that drivers earn so much more than, let’s say their race engineers or other people involved within the team. Without them, there wouldn’t be any cars to race. So they are equally important.

    1. I think it is the perfect time to bring this up by Hamilton though @srga91. I see this as a bit of a statement as part of the negotiation process over defining such a salary cap. Hamilton speaking for the drivers in that sense, helps make sure that they do get what they are worth.

      When we look at how much teams define what their drivers can do, either they need to agree to cut some limits on freedom / ownership of their image and actions or get rewarded in some other way for giving that up. With only 20 seats, it is a position of power for teams far more than for the drivers, apart from a few like Hamilton.

  4. Arise Sir Lewis Hamilton

  5. Well, he would, wouldn’t he

  6. 2011 – show loyalty to McLaren says Anthony.
    2012 – McLaren are family and will always be my home says Lewis
    2020 – Mercedes are lifelong family
    2022 – Ferrari are one big happy Family
    2026 – Loyal only to Team HamXtreme
    2028 – Indycar E-Power feels like home

    1. @RocketTankski
      McLaren was the first one not to show gratitude and loyalty to Hamilton, when Whitmarsh chose to favour Button over him and let Jensie get away with his actions in Canada 2011.
      McLaren let Hammy down in 2012 too, so it was perfectly fine for him to look another place where his talent would be considered a value instead of a problem.

      1. @liko41 Exactly, it exasperates me every time I here Button speak of beating Hamilton on points as some kind of success, as though that was the benchmark, not McLaren winning another title. At least Rosberg won a championship (and helped Mercedes develop the title-winning car, even before Hamilton arrived).

    2. Shouldn’t be capped? Wow lost his grip on reality. I appreciate he is a talented driver but it ain’t that hard, it’s only opportunity that gets them the drive. Try having a normal job with a normal wage instead of more than a lifetimes salary in one season. Sometimes Lewis you should just keep it shut.

  7. you have to analyse what your options are (Top money/Best car) and make sure you have done your due diligence and have your pros (Top money/Best car) and cons (Less money/lesser car).

    Hard choice to make Lewis …. hard choice for a racing driver who wants to win.

    1. @nullapax
      Sure it was.
      In 2018 Ferrari had the best car overall and in 2017 the competition was pretty equal. Swap drivers and the results would have been different.

      1. Swap drivers and the results would have been different.

        @liko41 WCC, yes. But I’ll bet that WDC would still go to Lewis in Ferrari those 2 years.

        1. @Rockgod
          Yeah, indeed. I wanted to say that a Ferrari driver (Hamilton, in our assumption) would have won the WDC…

      2. Merc were much quicker in 2018 but the team and Hamilton made a lot of errors and poor decisions in those early races.

        1. Nope. Ferrari was the best car for at least two thirds of that season. Get your facts straight.

          1. Mercedes only won 2 of the first 7 races despite having the clear best car.

            Mercedes quickest in Australia with Vettel jumping into the lead with a fortunate VSC allowing him to pit, Bahrain had Bottas all over the back of Vettel at the end with Vettel doing well to hold him off despite being much slower, China Hamilton got outqualified by Bottas with Bottas leading the race when safety car came out Mercedes didn’t pit the RBRs did gifting them the win.

  8. I’m not in favour of most sports having salary caps, but I’m very much against it in F1.

    US sports operate in a totally different franchise model where the draft tries to level up things. They don’t even have a balanced set of games each season (the better you do, the better your opposition the next year). With 50 people per team there’s a huge range of salaries depending on position and ability.

    F1 has 10 teams with only 2 drivers each. So 20 people in the world, it’s a ridiculously small number. Why do we need a salary cap? What would it do? The better drivers always end up in the better teams, with the lower teams paying less or getting sponsored drivers. It’s the pinnacle of motorsport, and so drivers should be able to earn what the market allows.

    How much do drivers even earn? I’d say other than about 1/4 of the grid the rest are on a lot less than we think!

  9. Big salaries and big budgets ruin most sports. F1 is no exception. We’ll never see another Tyrrell, williams are all but gone and we end up with Strolls.

    Normally respect Ham in his views but he is wrong here.

  10. I really don’t see the point of a salary cap. No team is uncompetitive because they couldn’t afford a top driver, it’s because they can’t afford to develop the car. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Salary caps make sense in sports like soccer, where the more you spend on salaries, the better players you get, and the better team you have. Players’ wages is the strongest determination of where a team will finish in the league.

    Drivers are risking life and limb, and most will have a 10-15 year F1 career at most. Let them earn what they can.

  11. Although this is kind of a side issue, I really don’t like that the cap they are talking about is shared between both drivers. Doesn’t that mean teams will offer almost the full amount for their no.1 driver in an attempt to outbid each other, meaning their second driver will probably be a cheap and less competitive driver? We have enough complaints of Bottas not being able to mount a sustained challenge against Hamilton for the drivers’ title – this situation would only get worse under the proposed plan with the top drivers in the top teams being paired up with cheap and probably inexperienced teammates.

  12. As if we cares about the next generation… All he cares about is that he keeps getting his big fat paycheck

    30 million is more than generous for any drivers… This just shows his true character, in a time like this it’s the least he could would be to support this. No one else seems to be critizing it

    1. And how much of those 30 mln he spent to care about other lives he talking about?

  13. They shouldn’t get salaries that go to their head either.

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