Do F1 Drivers Earn a Bonus for Winning a Race?

Published 08/17/2021, 11:36 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary – July 31, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates after qualifying in pole position Pool via REUTERS/David W Cerny


It is no secret that F1 prioritizes the prize money for the teams according to their ultimate position in the championship, and never interferes with the drivers’ salaries. Instead, it is the team that owns full responsibility for paying their respective drivers.

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Hence, the teams usually finalize the drivers’ on-track salary during the contract talks, which is usually split into two categories- base salary and bonus. The former remains constant irrespective of the driver performs on the track, but let’s focus on the latter for now.

One might wonder where the bonus plays a role in F1. Does a driver receive a hike in salary for each race victory?

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Well, the answer to it depends entirely on what’s present in the contract.

The logic behind bonus in F1

An F1 team clarifies bonuses to the drivers during the contract itself. But, not all bonuses depend upon race wins but objectives that could prove challenging for the drivers according to the team’s on-track competitiveness. Let’s consider title contenders like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Formula One F1 – Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary – August 1, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the race Pool via REUTERS/Peter Kohalmi

It is almost pointless to offer Hamilton or Verstappen a bonus for each point he scores in F1 because that’s the least they could do. Hence, in order for a title contender to receive bonuses, the objective most likely surrounds the number of podiums or race wins over a season.

However, teams that hardly compete for points, like Williams and Alfa Romeo, would have much simpler objectives for their drivers. If the driver manages to accomplish the team’s demands, he will gain the bonus along with the fixed base salary.

Kimi Raikkonen’s 2012 contract that almost led to Lotus’ downfall

Kimi Raikkonen had just expressed his interest in re-joining F1 after taking a sabbatical in 2009. Hence, two teams were in the race to sign the Finn- Lotus, and Williams. However, the latter took a huge gamble and secured a deal with Raikkonen by using an exciting clause in the contract.

The contract suggested that Lotus would offer Raikkonen a bonus of €50,000 for each point he gains. Shockingly, Raikkonen was absolutely flying through that season and gained a whopping 390 points.

MONZA, ITALY – Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari looks on in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Hence, Lotus had to pay Raikkonen  €19.5 million in bonus alone, which the then Lotus boss, Gerard Lopez reckoned almost led the team to bankruptcy.

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A primary example of the 2021 season is Lando Norris. The Briton’s fabulous start to the 2021 season meant that his bonus from McLaren is already around $2.5 million and could flair up to $6 million by the end of the season, as per Forbes‘ estimates.

Overall, the Bottom line is that bonuses don’t have to circle around race victories, rather could also be used in gaining points, podiums, race finishes, and more.

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Rohit Kumar

1143 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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