World’s Highest-Paid Race Car Drivers 2017

Sebastian Vettel, may well be ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the F1 championship this year (at the time of writing at least), but how do his salary and endorsements compare? Fernando Alonso is struggling at the back of the grid with McLaren, but his salary and endorsements certainly aren’t.

Whilst there are three F1 drivers in the top 100, we can't forget NASCAR drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson round up the total number of drivers within the list, which contains athletes from 11 sports in total.

5th Richest Race Car Driver - Dale Earnhardt Jr

Dale Earnhardt Jr

100th Richest Athlete 2017 - $21.4m total earnings with $13.4m salary/winnings and $8m endorsements

The 2017 NASCAR season will be his last behind the wheel. Earnhardt was voted NASCAR's most popular driver in 2016 for a 14th straight year. This popularity means he has taken home over $8m in endorsements in each of his last two years. Earnhardt's personal endorsement partners include Nationwide, Chevrolet, Axalta, Goody's, TaxSlayer and Wrangler.

4th Richest Race Car Driver - Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson

93rd Richest Athlete 2017 - $21.8m total earnings with $16.8m in salary/winnings and $5m in endorsements

Jimmie Johnson ties with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most NASCAR Spring Cup Series championships. The new NASCAR charter system means that there is more parity in the distribution of purses and bonuses, meaning Johnson took home less in winnings last year than previous years. His main personal sponsors are Gatorade, Chevrolet and Seiko.

3rd Richest Race Car Driver - Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

20th Richest Athlete 2017 $36m total earnings with $34m salary/winnings & $2m endorsements

Alonso joined McLaren from Ferrari on a three year deal in 2015. There has been no indication that he will stay at McLaren beyond 2018, despite McLaren organising his seat in this year's Indy 500 (in an Andretti Autosport car running under the McLaren-Honda name). Alonso earned roughly $300,000 for his trip to the Brickyard. Alonso's off-track income is boosted by endorsement deals with Citi, Pirelli and Kimoa.

2nd Richest Race Car Driver - Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel

14th Richest Athlete 2017 - $38.5m total earnings with $38m salary/winnings & $0.5m endorsements

The four-time world champion is in the last year of the contract he signed when joining Ferrari from Red Bull in 2015. With talks between the driver and Ferrari on hold, and rumours of a switch to Mercedes-Benz, Vettel could soon be climbing up the list. His endorsements include or have included the likes of Braun, Casio, Head and Shoulders and Ray Ban.

Richest Race Car Driver 2017 - Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

10th Richest Athlete 2017 - $46m total earnings with $38m salary/winnings & $8m endorsements

Lewis Hamilton became Britain’s best paid sportsman in 2015 by signing a new contract that ensures he will stay at Mercedes until at least the end of the 2018 season. He tops the 2017 list as the highest earning driver in Motorsport. Among Lewis’ endorsements are sponsorship deals with the energy drinks manufacturer Monster, IWC, L'Oreal, Bose, Puma, MV Agusta Motorcycles and Bombardier Recreational Products.

Key Facts

    • Global soccer icon Cristiano Ronaldo scored the top spot for the second straight year on Forbes’ annual look at the world’s highest-paid athletes. Ronaldo banked $93 million in salary from Real Madrid, as well as his endorsement partners. Before Ronaldo, the best-paid sports star was either Tiger Woods or Floyd Mayweather for 15 straight years.


    • The 100 highest-paid athletes earned a collective $3.11 billion over the last 12 months. It is down slightly from the $3.15 billion the previous year.


    • Athletes from 11 sports made the cut led by basketball with a record 32 NBA players among the top 100.


    • Americans dominate the top 100 with 63 athletes thanks to the sky-high salaries in the NBA, NFL and MLB, with 21 countries represented overall, Six athletes from the U.K.
    • The average age of the top 100 is 31


    • The top 100 earned $887 million from endorsements, memorabilia and appearance fees, down 4% from last year.


    • Forbes earnings figures include all salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017.


    • Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income for the 12 months through June 1 based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. Forbes do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees and do not include investment income. Our list only includes athletes active during the last 12 months.




Join the newsletter

Get the latest news, reviews and guides every week. Update your preferences at any time.