We all know by now that NASCAR can be a very rewarding game to get into if you are successful, have the right kinds of sponsors, and achieve consistently good results in races. That success delivers three primary benefits, namely:
- Funky and unique trophies
- A stellar name and reputation in NASCAR history
- Lots of money
The top NASCAR drivers are making millions of dollars annually, and enjoy comfortable lifestyles, but how do they fare against drivers in other motorsports, specifically Formula 1 drivers? In today’s blog, we’re taking a look at which of these two popular motorsports has the best-paid drivers, and also try and explain some of the reasons for disparities between them.
The short answer to the question is that Formula 1 drivers get more. In fact, they get quite a lot more. The top-paid Formula 1 driver, Lewis Hamilton earned almost three times what the top-paid NASCAR driver, Kyle Busch, got in the same period. The F1 legend, Hamilton, pulled in some $40 million, compared to just $16.9 million — ok, “just” might be the wrong word — from Busch.
The picture remains the same across the two sports. The second-, third-, and fourth-highest salaries in F1 still outdid Kyle Busch, earning $25 million, $20 million, and $20 million respectively. Let’s get a look at how each table of top earners compares:
|Lewis Hamilton||$40 million|
|Max Verstappen||$25 million|
|Fernando Alonso||$20 million|
|Lando norris||$20 million|
|Sebastian Vettel||$15 million|
|Daniel Ricciardo||$15 million|
|Charles Leclerc||$12 million|
|Valtteri Bottas||$10 million|
|Lance Stroll||$10 million|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||$10 million|
|Kyle Busch||$16.9 million|
|Denny Hamlin||$13.1 million|
|Kevin Harvick||$10.9 million|
|Martin Truex Jr.||$10.4 million|
|Brad Keslowski||$9.4 million|
|Joey Logano||$9 million|
|Kyle Larson||$8 million|
|Chase Eliott||$8 million|
|Kurt Busch||$7.5 million|
As you can see, both Formula 1 and NASCAR have tremendous earning potential, but let’s take a closer look at the possible explanations for the apparent disparity between the two sports.
The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that there’s a key difference in the two tables above, namely that for Formula 1 drivers, the right-hand column is titled “Salary,” and for NASCAR drivers the same column is titled “Annual Earnings.” Why did we make this change? Mainly it’s because NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers don’t earn their salaries in exactly the same way.
While the factors behind salaries and earnings in the two sports are similar — skill, number of wins or podium placements, reputation, image, ability to attract sponsors, etc. — the way they are doled out is different.
NASCAR racers get their portion of the race prize money depending on results and the other factors we mentioned, whereas Formula 1 drivers are paid a salary from their team, which forms the main part of their income.
This is also the reason that the salary amounts in Formula 1 are a lot more even compared to NASCAR. The lack of decimal points in F1 points to even balanced salaries paid across the year, whereas NASCAR earnings are more of a crapshoot.
Fans of Formula 1 often bemoan this fact, but it has been true for a long time that a tiny number of drivers and teams have dominated the entire sport for years and years.
The dominant driver right now is Lewis Hamilton (surprise, surprise, the top earner), who over his long career to date has about a 36-percent win record, which is just a little more than 1 in 3 races. That’s one of the best of all time.
Besides the individual driver, Formula 1 also recognises the team, which is why you hear two national anthems at the podium on race day (one for the driver, one for the team). In the world of F1, no team dominates like Lewis Hamilton’s current term, Mercedes.
Out of a total of 249 races they’ve participated in since 2010, their drivers have won 124 of them, which translates to 49.8 percent.
To put it another way, everyone is extremely bored of hearing the German anthem on race day. But more seriously what it means is that those few Mercedes drivers — whoever they may be at any point — are grabbing any and all bonuses that might get added onto whatever their base salary is, without anyone else getting much of a chance.
NASCAR is perhaps the polar opposite of this situation. While F1 is taking active steps to try and level the playing field and make their sport more varied and less predictable, NASCAR has long been home to a variety of winners. Virtually every race has differing outcomes, and it’s part of what explains the smaller earnings gap between the top earners.
Next, NASCAR has a more race-packed schedule than Formula 1, and there are more drivers in each race. This gives more drivers the opportunity to earn, with 36 races on the schedule in 2022, compared to just 23 for Formula 1, though admittedly 23 is one of the longest F1 schedules ever.
On the track, F1 only allows the 20 fastest drivers to qualify for race day, whereas a NASCAR race will usually have double that. More cars on the track, and more races in the schedule means that NASCAR money gets spread around more people.
Formula 1 is inherently a wealthier sport than NASCAR anyway, and on top of that, the bigger pile is spread among far fewer drivers meaning that overall they have more opportunity to Earn More.
So individually the drivers in formula 1 will earn more, however there are less of them in a race, only 20, and NASCAR can go to 40 or even 43 drivers and with the global appeal of F1 opposed to the local appeal, or at least mostly of NASCAR.
Also with the differences in financing and salaries it becomes more difficult to compare the two until you get to the bottom line. That bottom line clearly indicates that F1 at least at the top end of the pay structure the money is significantly more than NASCAR.