Who is the best value driver on the 2018 F1 grid? Here's what the stats say

At the (roughly) halfway stage of the season, we crunch the numbers on who is best, pound for pound

2y ago
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A modern F1 Team comprises a large number of supremely talented individuals coming together to collectively produce magic on the racetrack. But it is the drivers alone who are traditionally viewed as the superstars of the sport. And like many globally recognisable sports stars, the biggest names in F1 often attract very large pay cheques.

As we discussed in our 2017 mid-season bang for buck piece F1 is a complex business. Teams, especially the manufacturer outfits, are prepared to pay tens of millions of dollars to leverage the personal branding of their star drivers. Driver salaries and bonus structures are generally confidential, but a bit of knowledge and logic enables one to extrapolate a ballpark figure for driver salaries.

No wonder they are laughing: Vettel and Hamilton are the two highest paid drivers on the grid (Pic: Sutton)

No wonder they are laughing: Vettel and Hamilton are the two highest paid drivers on the grid (Pic: Sutton)

Website TSM Sportz did just that with the 2018 grid. A few of their estimates definitely feel over-inflated (Vandoorne, Raikkonen and Stroll in particular) so the standard disclaimers apply when judging the veracity of these numbers given the lack of hard evidence.

Branding and marketing aside once the lights go out teams pay their drivers for ultimately one thing – to score Championship Points! So as a Championship Point scoring investment how does each driver compare?

Following 12 out of 21 races so far in the 2018 season we adjust each driver’s annual salary on a pro rata basis ($ x 12 / 21) and then divide by their WDC points to date. The resulting $/point ranking gives us a good rough and ready ranking for driver value for money – their respective bang for buck. And there are some interesting results…

The full table

Ocon drops, Leclerc tops

In 2017 Esteban Ocon had the best $/point ranking and in 2018 a rookie once again takes the crown. The young Monagasque Charles Leclerc tops the tables at the mid-season break, though it was extremely close. Another rookie having a sensational season is Pierre Gasly with a $/point score only around $1,000/point behind Leclerc.

Last year's winner Esteban Ocon with this year's top man so far Charles Leclerc (Pic: Sutton)

Last year's winner Esteban Ocon with this year's top man so far Charles Leclerc (Pic: Sutton)

Interestingly in 2017 Ocon’s $/point was only $2,261 – more than three times better value than Leclerc this year. The difference is predominantly due to the relative strength of the drivers' teams this year with Force India having a more difficult 2018 and Sauber significantly improved from last year.

What else did we learn?

One significant change from 2017 is the performance (and value) of the two HAAS drivers. In 2017 Roman Grosjean and Keven Magnussen could not be separated in our head to head results. Their bang for buck score was also extremely close with Grosjean only just beating his teammate on a value for money basis. In 2018 K-Mag is a clear winner in the head to head and consequently represents nearly four times better $/point value than his teammate.

The two McLaren drivers are way down on the list (Pic: Sutton)

The two McLaren drivers are way down on the list (Pic: Sutton)

McLaren have definitely improved their performance from last year with Fernando Alonso securing 44 points to date compared to only 10 at the mid-season break in 2017. Even so the double World Champion and Stoffel Vandoorne represent the two worst drivers in the $/point value rankings (not including the hapless Sergey Sirotkin – the only driver yet to score a point this season). Few would doubt Alonso’s ability to eek out every point possible from the car at his disposal but McLaren are surely looking closely at the business case for retaining his team mate for 2019.

At Renault, even though Hulkenburg is beating Sainz in their head to head battle it is the Spaniard who represents the best value in the $/point rankings. Chilli Sainz will lose his Renault drive in 2019 but surely at number three in the value rankings the Spaniard will still be able to secure a race seat for next year?!

What about the sharp end of the grid?

Of the top three teams there is a clear winner for the best value for money. Sitting fifth in the Championship and with a relatively modest pay packet compared to the other Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo stands out as a solid investment.

The fact that Red Bull Racing weren’t able to keep the Australian for 2019 would tend to indicate that Renault decided to offer Ricciardo a significant increase to his current salary for next year (rumours have the figure at a whopping $75M over the two years).

Ricciardo is highest of the big beasts - have Renault got a bargain? (Pic: Sutton)

Ricciardo is highest of the big beasts - have Renault got a bargain? (Pic: Sutton)

Renault’s 2019 lineup will arguably be one of the strongest on the grid and it will be fascinating to see how the Hulk and Honey Badger measure up in their head to head and $/point value during the season. With Nico Hulkenberg having never made the podium (amazingly!) he now has the opportunity to measure himself directly against one of the very best drivers in the sport.

Following Ricciardo’s announcement of his move to Renault the final pieces of the driver lineup puzzle for 2019 should start to fall into place. Will Sainz and Leclerc’s 2018 performance and value secure them seats at Red Bull and Ferrari respectively? What of Fernando Alonso’s future? And who will miss out on a 2019 seat when the music stops?

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Comments (3)

  • Daniel Ricciardo is up there

      2 years ago
  • As a lover of F1 stats like these, this is just awesome - Does Raikkonen really get paid $40M a year? I thought it was the ballpark of $15-20M.

      2 years ago
    • Thanks for the feedback Archie. That was Kimi’s reported salary but agree that sounds overinflated.

        2 years ago
3