World champion Max Verstappen has hit out against the idea of a cap on Formula 1 driver salaries, arguing it would limit their ability to capitalize on the sport’s growing popularity and booming income.
F1 introduced a general cost cap last season for the first time in its history, but it excludes the three highest paid members of staff — typically the drivers and team principal.
Expanding expenditure controls to the drivers has long been mooted, with $30 million to cover a roster of two drivers informally proposed in 2020. The sport has yet to pursue it vigorously, with the question of how to deal with drivers already signed up on hefty salaries proving a tricky one to tackle, but the dramatic rise in inflation and ensuing spending squeeze has resharpened focus on its introduction in recent weeks.
Speaking in Baku ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Verstappen — who is lucratively contracted to Red Bull Racing until 2028 — said restricting the earning potential of the sport’s stars in a boom time for F1 and for its teams would be unfair.
“I think no one really knows where it is going to go, but from my side it’s completely wrong,” he said. “I think at the moment F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and [Formula 1 Management].
“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 suggested a salary cap could have a knock-on effect for aspiring young racers, whose sponsors typically take a cut of their stipends if they eventually make it onto a paid driver roster.
“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, I think it’s going to limit that a lot because they’ll never get their return in money if you get a cap,” he said. “So it will hurt all the junior categories as well, and I don’t think you want that.”
Lando Norris, who earlier this year signed another McLaren contract to take him to the end of 2025, agreed that the path to Formula 1 would become more financially restricted with in a capped-salary environment.
“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,” he noted. “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.”
Their remarks followed criticism of the salary cap concept by Fernando Alonso in Monaco, where the two-time world champion noted that the record-breaking F1 calendar and growing media commitments demand more from drivers than ever before.