Formula One is known as the “Rich Boys’ Club”, and the term is pretty apt given how expensive the sport is. As expensive as the salaries can get for the drivers, it is equally expensive for an upcoming driver to enter into the sport. Without proper financial backing, it is extremely tough to make it to the pinnacle of motorsports.
As expensive as it is to get into the sport, once you are in it, you enjoy all the benefits. The bumper contracts, the sponsorship deals, the lavish lifestyle — the whole lot.
In this article, we look at ten of the richest Formula One (F1) drivers of all time.
1. Michael Schumacher
World titles: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004)
Net worth: US$800 million
Regarded as the greatest-ever Formula One driver, Michael Schumacher, even almost ten years following his retirement, remains not only the greatest racer to grace the sport but also the most wealthiest one.
Schumacher made his debut with Jordan in 1991 and was immediately signed by Bennetton following his impressive one-off debut for Jordan. Schumacher won the first of a record seven titles in 1994 and successfully defended it in 1995. The German moved to Ferrari in 1996 and he came close on multiple occasions to take his first crown with the Scuderia between 1996 and 1999. Schumacher took home his third title and first with Ferrari in 2000 and that kicked-off one of the most dominant eras in Formula One history. Schumacher was practically untouchable between 2000 and 2004, where he won five titles with Ferrari. He came close to an eighth in 2006 but was edged out by Fernando Alonso.
The German walked away from the sport at the end of the 2006 season but returned from retirement in 2010 with Mercedes. After two seasons with the German team, Schumacher drew the curtains on one of the most decorated motorsports careers. His son, Mick, currently drives for Haas in Formula One.
Also Read – Top 10: Greatest Michael Schumacher Moments
2. Lewis Hamilton
Current team: Mercedes
World titles: 7 (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020)
Net worth: US$285 million
Statistically, Lewis Hamilton is the greatest Formula One driver of all time. The Brit started his career with McLaren in 2007 and produced one of the greatest rookie seasons that saw the then-22-year-old almost take home his maiden Drivers’ title in his very first year. After missing out by a mere point, Hamilton did win the title with McLaren the following year, edging out Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Hamilton moved to Mercedes in 2013 after six years with McLaren and took home his second title in 2014. He won again in 2015 and, after being beaten by his teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016, won four consecutive titles from 2017 to 2020, which saw him equal the record for most Drivers’ titles (7), tied with Michael Schumacher.
Now in his tenth season with the Brackley-based team, Hamilton continues to chase that elusive eight World title. Outside the track, he is one of the most prominent figures and regularly uses his voice for social causes.
Also Read – Top 10 Greatest Lewis Hamilton On-Track Moments
3. Kimi Räikkönen
World titles: 1 (2007)
Net worth: US$250 million
Nicknamed “The Iceman” for his calm demeanour, Räikkönen made his Formula One debut in 2001 with Sauber. After impressing everyone in his debut season, the young Finn was signed by McLaren in 2002.
Räikkönen took his first win in Malaysia in 2003 and almost won that year’s Championship title as well, but he was edged out by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. He would have won at least two World titles during his time at McLaren had it not been for their reliability issues, but following his move to Ferrari in 2007, Kimi won his first World title.
Räikkönen left the sport in 2010 to follow his passion of NASCAR and rally driving before returning to the sport in 2012 with Lotus. He reminded everyone why he was one of the best on the grid and was signed by Ferrari again in 2014.
After spending five years with Ferrari, Räikkönen moved to Sauber again in 2019, but the team were now rebranded as Alfa Romeo. The veteran spent three seasons with the Swiss team before hanging his boots at the end of the 2021 season, retiring as the most experienced Formula One driver ever.
Also Read – Top 10: Greatest Kimi Räikkönen on-track moments
4. Fernando Alonso
Current team: Alpine
World titles: 2 (2005 and 2006)
Net worth: US$240 million
Regarded as one of the greatest motor-racers of all time, Fernando Alonso made his Formula One debut in 2001 with Minardi. He moved to Renault in 2003 and took his first win the same year at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It was in 2005 that Alonso came into his own. Following years of domination by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, a young Alonso took the fight to the reigning World Champion and beat him to take home his first ever World title in 2005. Alonso won again in 2006 with Renault before moving to McLaren in 2007.
After a controversial stint at McLaren, Alonso returned to Renault in 2008 and was signed by Ferrari in 2010. Alonso came close on multiple occasions with Ferrari to win the title but fell short and finally left the team in 2015, moving back to McLaren. His second stint with McLaren was a disastrous one, however, and saw him regularly at the bottom of the grid.
Alonso left Formula One at the end of 2018 and went on to follow his other racing passion. He won back-to-back Le Mans races in 2018 and 2019 and even tried to win motor-racing’s ‘Triple Crown’ — F1 title, Le Mans and IndyCar — but hasn’t yet managed to win IndyCar.
The veteran Spanish driver returned to Formula One in 2021 with Renault, who are now rebranded as Alpine. He still remains one of the finest drivers on the grid.
Also Read – The Return of Fernando Alonso
5. Alain Prost
World titles: 4 (1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993)
Net worth: US$185 million
Nicknamed “The Professor” for his shrewd and intellectual approach to racing, Alain Prost started his career in 1980 with McLaren. He took his first win the following season at the Argentine Grand Prix but had to wait till 1985 for his first World title, which he won with McLaren.
Prost won three further titles with McLaren between 1986 and 1989. His rivalry with Ayrton Senna during the end of his McLaren stint is regarded as one of the greatest on-track rivalries. Prost and Senna’s relationship got to such a stage that Prost left McLaren for Ferrari in 1990.
Prost took a sabbatical in 1992 before returning in 1993 with Williams to win his fourth and final title. He retired at the end of the 1993 season but remained in the sport, buying out the Liger team to rename them Prost Grand Prix in 1997. Prost Grand Prix made their debut in the 1998 season but pulled out at the start of the 2002 season following a couple of unsuccessful campaigns.
6. Jenson Button
World titles: 1 (2009)
Net worth: US$150 million
Former British driver Jenson Button made his Formula One debut in 2000 with Williams. After having stints with Benetton, Renault and BAR, Button took his first win at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2006 with Honda.
Button remained with Honda until the team withdrew in 2008 and joined Brawn GP, following Ross Brawn’s management buyout of Honda. Button won his first and only Drivers’ title in 2009 with Brawn. He shifted to McLaren in 2010 and remained with them till the end of his career in 2016. He also served as a Senior Advisor to Williams in 2021.
Button won the Super GT series in 2018 and even competed in Le Mans and the FIA Endurance Championship. He participated in the inaugural Extreme E series in 2021 with his own team, JBXE.
7. Sebastian Vettel
Current team: Aston Martin
World titles: 4 (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013)
Net worth: US$140 million
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel started his career in 2007 with BMW Sauber. Following a promising debut with BMW, Vettel was signed by Toro Rosso in 2008, for whom he took his first victory the same season in Italy. He was then roped in by Red Bull in 2009 and, after finishing second in the Drivers’ Standings in his maiden season with them, Vettel won four back-to-back Championships with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013.
After a tough 2014 season, Vettel moved to Ferrari in 2015 and tried to emulate his hero Michael Schumacher by winning a title with the Scuderia. He came agonisingly close in 2017 and 2018, but fell short both times. He parted ways with Ferrari after the 2020 season and joined Aston Martin in 2021.
Even though he might not be fighting for wins and championships anymore, Vettel remains one of the most popular drivers on the grid and one of the all-time greats of the sport.
8. Mario Andretti
World titles: 1 (1978)
Net worth: US$130 million
Italian-born American racing driver Mario Andretti is one of America’s most successful racing drivers ever. He is one of only two drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One Championship.
Andretti was racing in single-seater open-wheel cars in the 1960s and made his Champ Car debut at the 1964 IndyCar. He won the IndyCar championship in 1969, winning nine races that season.
Along with participating in IndyCar, Andretti drove as a part-time driver for Lotus, March and Ferrari in Formula One in between 1968 and 1974 and even won on his debut for Ferrari in South Africa in 1971. It was only in 1975 that he became a full-time driver for the Parnelli team. He moved to Lotus after Parnelli pulled out of F1 and won the title in 1978 with them.
Andretti left Formula One and returned to Indycar in 1982 and took his final IndyCar win in 1993. He continued to race before finally hanging his boots in 2003.
9. Edmund Irvine Jr.
Net worth: US$120 million
Irvine is the only driver on this list whose main source of income probably wasn’t Formula One.
Irvine made his debut with Jordan in 1993. He took his first win at the 1999 Australian Grand Prix with Ferrari after moving to the Italian team in 1996. Although he did not win any Championships, Irvine’s best result was a second-place finish in the 199 season.
Irvine left Ferrari in 2000 to join Jaguar, with whom he saw out his career, retiring at the end of the 2003 season.
The reason that puts Irvine on the list isn’t just his Formula One record but his business skills. Even before his racing career, and throughout his racing days, Irvine invested heavily in real estate. He owns several properties and complexes all around the world today.
10. David Coulhard
Net worth: US$80 million
Former British driver David Coulthard made his Formula One debut with Williams in 1994 as the teammate of the late Ayrton Senna. He took his first win the following year in Portugal and was signed by McLaren in 1996.
Even though he didn’t win any Championships with McLaren, Coulthard managed 12 wins and finished second in the 2001 season. He left McLaren in 2004, joining Red Bull Racing. He spent four seasons with the Austrian team before retiring at the end of the 2008 season.
Since his retirement, Coulthard has gone on to work as a broadcaster, a commentator and a pundit. He even writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph and BBC Sport. Coulthard also is the founder of Whisper Films, which produces most of Channel 4’s F1 content. The British racer also founded Velocity Experience in 2016 which specialises in brand experiences for companies and clients.