Fortunately – just like with thoroughbred horse racing's standing as the "sport of kings" – the prestige and status of F1 attracts some of the wealthiest people on the planet. So let’s take a look at them...
As an entrée, just think about that Claro sticker on the rear wing of the Red Bull Racing car. Claro is the South American part of America Movil, a Forbes Global 2000 telecoms group that employs almost 200,000 staff and is headquartered in Mexico City – its reported revenues are north of $50 billion. Its chairman, Carlos Slim Helu, has a current net worth of $62.8 billion, according to Forbes – at the time of writing, he’s the world's 16th richest man.
He – along with son Carlos Slim Domit – has been the financial force behind driver Sergio Perez, who joined the team in 2021. His career has been intrinsically linked to the Slim family via their Telmex telecoms company, which sponsored his rise from the Skip Barber single-seater series in America right through to F1.
That Claro sticker that Perez brings to Red Bull is attached to a car that's owned by some chaps who we'll come to in a moment, one of whom is 56th on that rich list. His net worth is $26.9 billion, and he owns less than half of the company!
It's a dizzying example but underlines the insane amount of money that helps make the F1 world spin.
Who is the richest team owner in F1?
Dietrich Mateschitz is the co-founder, 49% owner and managing director of Red Bull, the energy drinks company that owns Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri. The 76-year-old Austrian loves F1 so much that he bought not one but two teams (Jaguar and then Minardi).
His backstory is this: While marketing toothpaste in Thailand, he came across a drink called Krating Daeng and found it helped cure his jetlag. After collaborating with its originator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, they launched a "westernized" version called Red Bull in 1987, which quickly became the world market leader in the lucrative energy drink market.
Red Bull's first motorsport connection was via its sponsorship of Gerhard Berger, and later it would own 60 percent of the Sauber F1 team – until a falling out with Peter Sauber taking Kimi Raikkonen over Enrique Bernoldi! In November 2004, Mateschitz bought the Jaguar Racing team for one pound from Ford, and a year later – with Berger – purchased the Minardi team from Paul Stoddart, renaming it Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Run by team principal Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing has won the F1 World Championship four times with Sebastian Vettel. STR, which is Red Bull’s F1 junior team, won its first grand prix with Vettel in 2008 and has since been renamed AlphaTauri, to promote Red Bull’s fashion brand.
Mateschitz also owns the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, home of the Austrian Grand Prix. Yoovidhya died in 2012, and his son Chalerm (who is no stranger to the paddock himself) now owns 51% of the company, technically making him the richest team owner in F1 – although it is, metaphorically at least, Mateschitz's name above the door.
Who is the richest driver in F1?
The wealthiest active driver in F1 is Lewis Hamilton. The seven-time world champion commands a salary of about $55 million per annum, and his net worth is somewhere between $300-$500 million. Endorsement deals with Mercedes, Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy, Bose, Puma, IWC, Sony, Gran Turismo and MV Agusta are likely to have boosted his bank balance to the very top end of that range.
The man with whom Hamilton is level with, in terms of world championship wins, Michael Schumacher, is believed to be worth between $600-800 million. Forbes twice listed him as its highest-paid athlete, in 1999 and 2000, and claims his annual earnings at Ferrari peaked at $80 million per annum.
Who is the richest race promoter in F1?
There are plenty of wealthy folk associated with Formula 1's race events, such as Singapore property and hotel tycoon Ong Beng Seng – who was instrumental in his city attracting a race to his streets – or how about Austin’s Circuit of the Americas investor John DeJoria? The co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products is also worth a couple of billion dollars. Prince Albert of Monaco is also thought to be a billionaire, whose Principality hosts the most famous race on the schedule.
And then there is Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, whose grands prix are effectively run by the royal families of the kingdoms. The Bahrain royal family's personal wealth is understood to be in excess of $4 billion – Crown Prince Salman is a highly visible supporter of the annual race and F1 in general. He is also an investor in McLaren via Mumtalakat, the sovereign wealth fund of the Gulf island state. Its assets are believed to be worth $17 billion.
Meantime, the emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa, controls the investment authority which, at $875 billion in assets, is the largest amount managed by a head of state. His family's fortune is also estimated at $150 billion.
F1's newest addition to the calendar, the Miami Grand Prix, adds more wealth to the F1 "family." Stephen M Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, has a personal net worth of over $7.5 billion.
The real estate developer, whose RSE Ventures firm was in the running to actually buy Formula 1 before Liberty Media closed the deal, signed a contract to bring F1 to Miami that took time to reach fruition due to local resident opposition and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having switched focus from downtown Miami to his own Hard Rock Stadium facility in Miami Gardens, Ross is prepared to build a racetrack in its car parks at the cost of $40 million. It will host its first race in 2022.
How rich are Formula 1's owners?
Liberty Media bought Formula 1 Group from private equity firm CVC for $4.6 billion in 2017. Liberty is controlled by John C Malone, a U.S. billionaire who is understood to be the largest private landowner in America. His net worth, according to Forbes, is $7.8 billion.
Liberty Media recently disclosed – in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission – that the compensation of its CEO, Greg Maffei, had risen to $47.1 million in 2020, up from $44 million – mainly from stock awards and options. His base salary was $871,800.
Bernie Ecclestone, the former Chief Executive of Formula 1 Group, is understood to be worth over $3 billion. He remained Chairman Emeritus of F1 until 2020.
Who are F1's richest "racing fathers"?
Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll effectively drives for his father, Lawrence, whose net worth Forbes states at $3.2 billion. In early 2020, Stroll led a $235 million buyout of the Aston Martin car company and renamed his Formula 1 team (formerly Racing Point) to reflect this, which he'd bought in the summer of 2018 for over $100 million.
Stroll Sr is the mastermind behind the 2011 IPO of fashion brand Michael Kors and sold his final shares in the company in 2014. Before then, he'd brought clothing brands Pierre Cardin and Ralph Lauren to Canada and, along with Hong Kong investor Silas Chou, invested in Tommy Hilfiger and then similarly developed the Michael Kors brand. Stroll is a renowned collector of Ferraris and famously purchased a 275 GTB/4 Spider for a record-breaking $27.5 million in 2013.
Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin's father, Dmitry, is the majority shareholder and chairman of the board of Uralchem Integrated Chemicals Company. He made the Forbes' billionaires list in 2014 and 2015, having bought into the $5 billion Uralkali company – the world's largest potash producer whose name appears on the Haas cars – in 2013. He previously worked with petrochemical companies TNK and Sibur, and first formed his own company in 2004, which has since been merged into Uralchem.
Mazepin also made a bid to take over the Force India F1 team in 2018 but lost out to Stroll.
Williams driver Nicholas Latifi's father, Michael, is the owner, chairman, and CEO of Sofina Foods. Via an investment company he also controls, he put $200 million into McLaren Group in 2018.
Latifi Sr left his native Iran for Canada at the age of 15, and he became a refugee there after the Shah was overthrown in 1979. He put his business degree together with his engineering background to start a food processing company in Toronto in 1995 called Vienna Meat products, which grew into Sofina Foods, which has revenues of $2 billion.
Having grown a passion for Ferrari, he bought (and drove) an ex-Michael Schumacher F2004 and ex-Kimi Raikkonen F2007.
Will there be more "new" money coming into F1?
With new rules and budget caps on the near horizon for teams, Formula 1 has finally got its costs under control from a competitive standpoint. But that won't stop the super-rich from being involved and helping to thrust revenues skywards.
The inclusion of a second race in the United States – a place where multi-billionaire sports franchise owners are the rule, rather than an exception – is only going to heighten F1's profile as it expands its calendar under Liberty's watch. The influence of Netflix's Drive to Survive series and Lewis Hamilton's social activism alongside his success on the track should also give scope for further growth thanks to a wider spotlight.
The Williams F1 team's $180 million acquisition by US investment company Dorilton Capital might not be the last change of hands or injection of cash. Sponsorship is another good barometer of F1's financial health, and we've seen Cognizant take title rights at Aston Martin, Oracle becoming a big player at Red Bull and TeamViewer becoming Mercedes' third-largest sponsor.
As McLaren chief Zak Brown often states, F1 is a place "to get famous fast." And it's showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.