Who is the Best Value Driver on the F1 Grid

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Formula 1 is one of the world’s most popular sports – it is also a complex business. The top teams in F1 spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars each year putting two cars on track.

It’s big business but ultimately each team has limited funds available and needs to ensure they are getting the best return possible on every dollar invested.

Getting a return on investment extends to every one of each team’s employees – drivers included.

A fundamental indicator of a driver’s performance is the number of world championship points they have earned over a season.

At the half way stage of the 2017 season we thought it would be interesting to see what return on investment each driver has generated for their employers to date.

Earlier this year Fox Sports reported each driver’s salary for the 2017 season (except Lance Stroll’s, interestingly?!).

Pro-rating these salary figures to mid-season and dividing by each driver’s championship points to date gives us an indication of which drivers have delivered the best bang for the buck for their teams – and those who have not!


Rank Driver Team Salary WDC Points $ / Point
* Salary figures for Bottas and Alonso include bonus payments
1 Esteban Ocon Force India $185,000 45 $2,261
2 Carlos Sainz Torro Rosso $750,000 35 $11,786
3 Pascal Werlein Sauber $150,000 5 $16,500
4 Sergio Perez Force India $2,500,000 56 $24,554
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull $3,000,000 67 $24,627
6 Valtteri Bottas* Mercedes $8,500,000 169 $27,663
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull $6,500,000 117 $30,556
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari $7,000,000 116 $33,190
9 Romain Grosjean HAAS $1,500,000 18 $45,833
10 Kevin Magnussen HAAS $1,000,000 11 $50,000
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault $3,000,000 26 $63,462
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari $30,000,000 202 $81,683
13 Felipe Massa Williams $3,500,000 23 $83,696
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes $31,000,000 188 $90,691
15 Daniil Kvyat Torro Rosso $750,000 4 $103,125
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren $300,000 1 $165,000
17 Fernando Alonso* McLaren $40,000,000 10 $2,200,000
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault $1,000,000 0
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber $285,000 0
N/A Lance Stroll Williams Not Available 18 Not Available

We have a clear winner. At $2,261 per championship point Esteban Ocon has the second lowest salary on the grid but is impressively ranked eighth in the WDC with 45 points.

Force India have clearly achieved a solid return on their driver investment.

Both their drivers rank in the top four on $/point but the rookie Frenchman stands apart as the best value for money on the grid so far this year.

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Comparing $/point scores between teammates and checking the correlation with on track head to head performance throws up some interesting results.

For example Force India is one of five teams with drivers that are currently behind their team mates in the season head to head battle but still represent better value for money in the $/point rankings. Ocon, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Vandoorne all fit into this category.

On the other hand HulkenbergSainzWerlein and Grosjean are all beating their team mates in the head to head factors on track as well as also being better value for money than their respective team mates.

There are some big discrepancies between both value and performance of team mates at Renault, Torro Rosso and Sauber. Haas is the exception among this group with Grosjean and Magnussen closely matched in both on track head to head and $/point.

“Chilli” Sainz and “Hulk” Hulkenberg are wiping the floor with their team mates in their head to head results and also represent far better value for each dollar spent on team salaries.

Their teammates, Kvyat and Palmer, have both had their share of bad luck in the season to date but the stats don’t lie. Palmer must surely be in a perilous position at Renault having not scored a single point all season.

He’s been beaten in all head to head factors by Hulkenberg and is ranked equal last on the $/point ranking…Robert Kubica may need to break a record to make a successful comeback but Palmer’s rankings surely suggest a good business case for Renault to make the switch.

Other than Hulkenberg, the only other driver who has beaten his team mate on all six head to head factors in the season to date is Fernando Alonso.

As a return on investment the double world champion’s salary of a reported $40M (including bonuses) leaves him at the back of the $/point value for money rankings so far this year (yes folks, that’s $2m per point!).

Few would argue that given competitive machinery Fernando would be at the pointy end of the field but the cash burn for McLaren on the Spaniard’s pay packet must add to their financial woes from an uncompetitive Honda engine.

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We understand there are many other factors that teams use to value a driver other than their points haul and track performance.

Some drivers bring large amounts of sponsorship money with them. Large companies like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull ultimately want to market their brands whether they are selling road cars or energy drinks.

No doubt there is a lot of leverage that comes from being able to use multi world champions to market your products.

Regardless, we think the $/point ranking is a good rough and ready guide to value for money in the F1 driver market.

The top two drivers in our mid-season rankings, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz, are clearly punching well above their weight suggesting their (hopefully very happy) teams may need to rebalance the pay scales heading into 2018.

2 Replies to “Who is the Best Value Driver on the F1 Grid”

  1. Can you explain how $300,000 for 1 point equals $165,000 per point. and $40,000,000 for 10 points equals$2,200,000 per point?

    It seems that all the $/pt figures are wrong.

    1. Thanks for your question Dataman. The text mentions the salaries have been prorated to the mid-season break. This could perhaps have been clearer.

      Since only 11 of 20 races had been held up to mid-season the drivers had effectively only earned 11/20 of their annual salaries at that point. (eg $300,000 x 11/20 = $165,000)

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