In the vast world of automotive racing, and motor sports more generally, there are a great number of athletes on all levels fighting for the win. Some are as young as fourteen in professional kart racing while others are at the top of their career in series like F1, NASCAR, and MotoGP.
Most of these young ‘prodigies’ don’t really get paid for their efforts. In fact, it’s usually the opposite: The driver paying for the seat. However, after going through the gauntlet and proving your worth, some can make millions doing what they love. The proof is in the pudding since so many famous world champions and professional racers make at least six-figures.
But, the ones who really surprise are those with a paycheck to rival athletes like LeBron James and Tom Brady.
For a vast majority of professional sports, getting to the top usually means getting a top-level paycheck too. Sadly though, this isn’t always the case. Compared to others on this list, IndyCar drivers are frequently “underpaid” in terms of risk factor and skill involved.
That being said, this version of underpaid is still $3 million. It’s nothing to snub your nose at, but still small by comparison. Hopefully, this will begin to change in the near future.
NASCAR is one of the largest spectator sports in the world; drawing millions a year in both in-person and on broadcast showings. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why some of its drivers receive a lofty compensation.
Kyle Larson is a great example of such a driver: Earning around $10 million a year. The Chip Ganassi driver has done very well in the past to earn this wage, but just needs to maintain it for the rest of 2019.
After a shocking move from Red Bull to Renault for the 2019 Formula One season, Daniel Ricciardo became the talk of the F1 community. Some speculated it was due to troubles within the team or a salary increase. In the end, both seemed to be correct.
The driver didn’t seem to be appreciated at Red Bull, so the switch satisfied both that and a pay-raise to over $15 million. Even though Renault probably wont be winning any championships anytime soon, at least Ricciardo can enjoy a bit of extra dough while he waits.
Nicknamed “The Ice Man” for his cool and collected attitude, Kimi Raikkonen has become a staple of Formula One. Throughout his long career, Kimi has raced for a number of different teams; returning to Alfa Romeo in 2019 after years with Scuderia Ferrari.
With such an extensive resume, it’s no wonder why Kimi gets paid the big bucks. More specifically, close to $8 million. Compared to Riccardo and others, this may not seem like much, yet Raikkonen’s net worth and subsequent paydays during previous seasons still keep him as one of the highest paid athletes in the business.
Young prodigies are exceedingly rare in sports like Formula One and other expensive venues. However, Max Verstappen (Son of former F1 driver, Jos Verstappen) proves to be an exception to the normal circumstances.
At the ripe young age of 22, Max Verstappen has not only accumulated a number of wins/podiums, but also a hefty commission too. In 2019, his salary came close to $13.5 million (not including extra sources of revenue). $13 million a year for anyone is a dream come true, let alone for someone born only two decades ago.
As mentioned previously, NASCAR can bolster a huge wage for proven winners. In some cases, seasoned NASCAR drivers can earn as much, if not more, than N.B.A. players or N.F.L. quarterbacks. For a personification of this, look no further than Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie Johnson is a driver for the team Hendrick Motorsports and has won the most championships in the series ever. For his hard work, Johnson is one of the highest paid American drivers with a total of $19+ million a year.
Dominance in any sport is quite the achievement, yet doing it in motor sports is requires another world of skill. Few have been successful in their attempts except for a few: One being Marc Márquez, five-time MotoGP world champion.
The Spanish rider has racked up over 45 wins with those five championships and continues to earn more. As a result, he’s one of the best compensated out of any MotoGP rider currently on the grid. According to multiple media sites, Márquez cashes checks for anywhere between $14 and $20 million per year.
Obviously, these paydays vary in conjunction with on-track performance. Nonetheless, the odds of him doing well on race day are very likely.
Valentino Rossi, nicknamed “The Doctor” for his precise skill, shares a race with Marc Márquez in MotoGP. However, unlike Márquez, Rossi is a seasoned veteran of the series; going back as late as 1996.
The Doctor has, without a doubt, earned the “legendary” status in MotoGP for his countless victories and consistent riding. This legendary title comes with a legendary pay-stub too: A shocking $40 million or more. Not much more you could ask for with seven world championships under your belt (Except another championship, of course).
Who has four world championships, is the youngest world champion, and is current a Formula One driver for Scuderia Ferrari? Of course, this is the renowned Sebastian Vettel.
Although all of his championships were earned at Red Bull during 2010 to 2013, Ferrari still see the potential and skill residing within Vettel. As such, he’s one of the richest racecar drivers in history with a yearly salary of about $30 million. The money seems to be well spent with second place in the 2018 season and multiple wins. Here’s hoping that Ferrari can eventually clench another championship with so much talent behind the wheel.
It’s one thing to earn an ungodly amount of money; it’s another to know how to spend it. For advice on this and how to win back-to-back championships, look no further than Lewis Hamilton.
Not only does he have five world championships and 82 wins, but he is also one of the most luxurious and influential drivers ever. His Mercedes F1 team puts out around $35 million a year alone for his contract and much more in sponsorships. To add to this, he also has his own clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger, which certainly helps with any added expenses.
Hamilton has great taste too, using his fortune to purchase a litany of Ferraris, Pagani’s, and Mercedes’. He also had a bright red private jet at one point too. Talk about “jaw-dropping wealth.”