Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 should look to American sport for advice on driver salary caps as the debate over raising the cost cap intensifies .
Drivers are opposed to measures to cap their income as part of a broader drive to control team spending. A driver salary cap would be separate from the overall cost cap, which currently excludes each team’s top three earners.
In Azerbaijan on Friday, several pilots spoke out against the idea, saying it would be unfair to limit their income as the sport is bringing in more money than ever thanks to a boom in popularity. Sebastian Vettel described it as a strategy to improve the team’s results.
But Wolff argued that it was unfair that driver salaries were not capped when the rest of the team’s salaries were not only subject to the $140 million cap, but also had to compete with the cost of building the car and was now squeezed by the cost of inflation too.
“It’s definitely become a controversial topic,” he said. “We have a cost cap – we have $140 million per 1,000 people. With inflation, we couldn’t even afford inflation. I think talking about a $30 million or $40 million wage allowance is insufficient from that perspective.
“We should not exclude the best employees from the team. In order to make it sustainable, everyone should be covered by the cost cap – and that’s not just the drivers, but also the team principals and senior management.
Wolff pointed to the United States, where several major leagues have either a strict salary cap or other similar instruments to control player spending, as the source of a potential working model for F1. in particular by strengthening the ability of pilots to sign individual contracts. separate mentions of the teams.
“The most successful American leagues in the world introduced salary caps 15 years ago,” he said. “There, things are going pretty well.
“Like every other sport in the world, we need to find a way to act sustainably and become independent from sovereign wealth funds or public teams.
“So it’s certainly clear that’s going to be one of the main areas, because you can’t just have a payroll in some of the top teams that’s $30 million, $40 million, $50 million when the rest of the team is to be split into $140 million.
“But having said that, they are huge superstars. They deserve to be among the best earners in the sport. In terms of direct salaries, they already are, and then we need to find a way to unlock the ability to do deal-making. sponsorship, which represent two-thirds or more for American sports teams.
“But certainly direct salaries, Formula 1 drivers are the highest paid.”
But Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has been more equivocal about it, acknowledging that a handful of drivers are already on long-term deals which alone could shatter the $30m cap for the driver roster. of each team.
“I’m not sure there’s a solution, honestly,” he said. “It’s not just tricky, I think it’s not even urgent.
“The driver salary cap will mainly only affect three, four teams maximum, no more than that. The teams that will be affected already have long-term agreements with their drivers – so long that it’s not something I think we need to put in place for next year; it may not be until 2026.”
Binotto also said the sport had yet to respond to Max Verstappen’s argument that it would make the road to Formula 1 more expensive by reducing the incentive for sponsors to back young racers in return for a percentage of winnings across the board.
“This is one of the points that needs to be discussed, because we need to promote the younger generations,” he said. “How to mitigate that in case we go for a salary cap, I don’t have the solution to that. That’s why I think it’s tricky.
“So while I understand the point, while we understand the importance of it, I don’t think anyone today has a solution. Whether there will still be a solution, I don’t know. We’ll take our time. . »