Wolff reignites controversial topic on F1 driver salary cap
Nov.12 - Just as Lewis Hamilton pushes for a new Mercedes contract, his boss has re-fired the conversation about the need for a drivers' salary cap.
Seven time world champion Hamilton is still the highest earner in Formula 1 - although new back-to-back title winner Max Verstappen is now close with their approximate $40 million per year pay.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits that limiting drivers' salaries is a "controversial topic", but he thinks it's now a timely one with the world entering recession.
"We can see that we are facing a very difficult situation in F1 overall," he said in Brazil.
"The sport is booming and F1 is earning more money and that trickles down to the teams. But we have a cost cap. We have $140 million for 1000 people. With inflation, we haven't been able to even pay the inflation.
"The talk about $30 or $40m salary allowance is inadequate when you take that perspective."
Highly paid drivers including Hamilton, Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and others have previously stated their opposition to a cap, and Wolff admits that "as a driver I would maybe say the same thing".
"But the American leagues that are the most successful in the world have introduced salary caps 15 years ago. It works pretty well over there," said the Austrian.
"We need to find a way of how we can act sustainably and become independent from sovereign funds or state-owned teams."
Whether a cap is introduced or not, Wolff's comments coincide with rumours that Hamilton, 37, has already been told that a new deal beyond 2023 will need to involve a pay cut.
"You can't simply have a salary bill in some of the top teams that is $30, $40, $50 million when the rest of the team needs to be divided in 140m," he said.
"Having said that, they are tremendous superstars, they deserve to be among the top earners in the sport. In terms of direct salaries they already are.
"Then we need to find a way of unlocking the capability of doing endorsement deals which is two-thirds if not more for American sports teams. But certainly in direct salaries, F1 drivers are paid the most."
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I am reminded of Jackie Stewart racing for Ken Tyrrell on a handshake agreement. How'd that work out? There are 10's, 100's, maybe even 1000's of very talented young racing drivers who would do the same thing today. How about a smart team employing 'scouts' to beat the bushes rather than waiting for a rich daddy, or simply reading results from racing form mag's to fill a young driver program?