Formula 1 is one of the most lucrative sports across the globe generating approximately $230 million every Grand Prix which is well over the amount generated by other profitable single sports events. The sport generates most of its revenue through sponsorship, broadcast fees, circuit and ticket revenue and corporate hospitality. But behind the fame and buzz of the sport are some incredible businessmen who keep the F1 circus lucrative.
Most prominent business men in F1
Here is a list of some of the most prominent business men in the sport with some honorary mentions at the end of two great businessmen in F1 that are no longer in the paddock.
Bernie Ecclestone is the former chief executive of the Formula One group, which manages Formula One motor racing. The British business magnate was in charge of the sport for nearly 40 years. Ecclestone’s meteoric rise in F1 is particularly impressive because of his humble beginnings as his father was a fisherman and his mother a housewife.
He began honing his negotiating skills in school where he developed an interest in motorbike racing. At 16 he left school and eventually found work as a salesman at Compton and Fullers where his bike sales began to outdo the business and convinced Compton to get into racing.
Ecclestone competed in a few races but left to pursue real estate investment. He returned in 1957 managing Stuart Lewis Evans and later Jochen Rindt. His strong influence in F1 begun in 1972 when he purchased the Brabham team for $100,000 and later sold it for $5 million.
Ecclestone formed the Formula One Constructors Association through which he took over ownership of the commercial rights of F1 from the teams in the mid 1990’s and struck a deal with then FIA president and ally Max Mosley to lease them for 110 years at $360m. He increased exposure for F1 requiring television companies to show the full championship season as opposed to selected races and is considered one of the shrewdest businessmen.
Sir Lewis Hamilton
The seven-time (should be 8) world champion from the UK is currently the wealthiest active driver in Formula 1 if you disregard the drivers with shares in their fathers’ empires like Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi. Hamilton began his racing career at 8 years winning the British Kart Championship at 10 and further won several European and world karting championships.
Hamilton joined F1 in 2007 with the McLaren team claiming several victories and a world championship in 2008. He would later join the Mercedes AMG F1 team in 2013.He has become one of the most formidable drivers in F1, holding records for the most wins (103) most pole positions (103), and 191 podium finishes in his career, also the most of any driver.
Hamilton has an estimated networth of $400m with an annual salary of $54m. The earnings are boosted by endorsements with brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy, Sony, Bose, MV Augusta Motorcycles and more, all of which have maintained his status as one of the highest-paid athletes. Hamilton also invested in a vegan restaurant franchise “Neat Burger” worth $70m and operates in the UK in Camden, Soho, Oxford Circus and Finsbury Park.
In addition to his business ventures, Hamilton’s love for the sport led him to create a racing team X44 which competes in the Extreme E series. He also has a fashion line with Tommy Hilfiger and has recorded some music under a secret alias. He is F1’s Renaissance man.
John C Malone
The American billionaire famous for his M&As in the cable television business since the 90s and acquired Formula 1 in 2016 for $4.4bn. He is the founder and chairman of the Liberty Media Corporation, an American mass media company with different divisions covering movie production, TV production, broadcasting, cable television and sports management.
Malone is a majority owner of Liberty Media, Liberty Global and Quadrate Retail Group and holds 7% shares in Lionsgate and Starz Inc. with an estimated net worth of $7.9bn. He also owns the Atlanta Braves, an MLB team with an estimated value of $1.875bn and is the most prominent landowner in the US owning 2.2 million hectares of land. His acquisition of formula one and investments make him to one of the most prominent businessmen in the sport.
Lawrence Sheldon Strulovitch, also commonly known as Lawrence Stroll, is a Canadian billionaire worth 3.2 billion. He is part-owner and executive chairman of Aston Martin.
Stroll’s involvement in F1 was first spotted when he purchased the force India F1 team for 90 million pounds, which was renamed Racing Point F1. While initially reluctant, the team then signed his son, Lance Stroll, as a driver. In 2020 Stroll raised funding of 182 million pounds into Aston Martin for 16.7% shares, which saw Racing Point rebranded as Aston Martin.
Lawrence Stroll made several of his millions from the fashion industry and has invested in brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors. He also spearheaded Michael Kors’ successful IPO in 2011 and sold off his shares in the company which significantly contributed to his wealth. Lawrence Stroll’s previous investments and his active role and stake in Aston Martin have led him to be among the top businessmen known in Formula 1.
Latifi is an Iranian -Canadian businessman and the Chief Executive Officer and chairman of his food product company Sofina foods Inc., one of Canada’s largest food processing conglomerates with of nine different brands. It is also Latifi’s primary source of wealth.
Through Sofina Foods he has played an active role in formula 1, offering sponsorships and partnerships to Williams racing from 2019 when Nicholas Latifi (Michael Latifi’s son) was made reserve driver. Latifi has made other significant investments in F1 through his investment company Nidala and also acquired 10% shares in the Mclaren group for $260m.
Additionally, Lavazza, a famous Italian coffee brand under Sofina Foods which has been Nicolas Latifi’s backer for several years became an official partner for Williams racing in 2020 providing the billionaire with access to the lucrative business marketing pool in Formula 1.
Wolff is an Austrian investor and currently the team principal and CEO of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team, where he holds 33% of the shares in the team. Wolff receives an annual salary of 8 million pounds and has estimated net worth of $580 million.
Wolff is a former race car driver competing in the Austrian Formula Ford Championship in 1992, and the German Formula Ford series. Wolff also competed in the FIA GT Championship and the Italian GT Championship. Wolff and Mika Hakkinen, own a sports management company managing drivers like Valterri Bottas, Alexandre Premat and Bruno Spengler.
He founded Marchfifteen and Marchsixteen investments in 1998 and 2004 which focused on internet and technology companies. Wolff is a tactical investment expert in medium-sized industrial and listed companies, including the Williams F1 team. He purchased 49% of German HWA AG, which runs the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters race program for Mercedes Benz developing F3 engines and the gullwing Mercedes Benz SLS GT3 racing car.
Wolff has also invested in one of the most significant rally parts dealers in Europe, BRR Rally Racing. His investments and shrewd business mind have enabled him to be considered one of the most successful businessmen in the F1 and one of the best team principals of his time.
The British businessman is Formula 1’s Managing Director, motorsports and technical director, a position for which he is paid $4m annually. Brawn began his motorsport career in 1976 with March Engineering joining their Formula 3 racing team as a mechanic. Brawn then worked for a variety of F1 teams including Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn, Honda and recently, Mercedes.
He was the technical director of the Benetton F1 team and joined Ferrari in 1996, where he was known for his race strategies and was the mastermind behind Michael Schumacher’s world titles at Benetton and Ferrari. In 2007, he became Honda F1’s team principal and later bought the team for $1 in 2009, forming Brawn GP, in which he held a 54% stake.
Mercedes Benz later acquired brawn GP in his stead, a transaction which benefitted the former majority shareholder as he walked away with the lion’s share of $175m purchasing price of the team. He would stay on as team principal until Toto Wolff joined the team.
Brawn’s success is attributed to his brilliant engineering and strategies for different teams evidenced by the nine Constructors’ Championships won. He also had a role in the careers and successes of F1’s two most successful drivers; Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher.
The Mexican investor and businessman was named the world’s richest man by Forbes (2010-2013). He derived most of his wealth from his telecommunication conglomerates, including Carso Global Telecom, comprising of subsidiaries such as America Movil and Telcel.
He also owns Telmex, a Mexican telecommunications company that has played a significant role in F1 through its partnership with Red Bull driver Sergio Perez for three decades even before he was a competitive driver. Carlos recognized Perez talent during his teen years while he was go-karting and first supported the driver for the CART Grand Prix in Mexico. The companies have continued to support Perez across the different F1 teams he has driven for.
Currently, Slim’s subsidiaries Telcel, Claro, Infinitum, America Movil and the telecom divisions all sponsor the RedBull Formula 1 team. Such partnerships between brands and drivers are key because they offer opportunities to drivers for whom F1 would not be accessible.
The Australian businessman was a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $25.4 billion. Dietrich co-founded the Red Bull energy drink company in which he held 49% of shares. The Red Bull brand has always been associated with different types of extreme sports.
F1 is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports. So it is not surprise that Redbull joined the sport by partnering with the Sauber Formula 1 racing team in 1995, holding over 60% stake in the team. The team enjoyed a decade of Red Bull sponsorship. But this was not enough involvement for Red Bull which went on to purchase the Jaguar Racing team in 2004. This begun the company’s next chapter in Formula 1 as a constructor.
At the end of 2005, Mateschitz acquired the remaining interest of the Minardi Formula one racing team from Paul Stoddart and renamed it Scuderia Toro Rosso which he jointly owned with Gerhard Berger for a short while till he bought back Berger’s shares in 2008.
Toro Rosso functioned as the junior Red Bull Racing team where drivers who show great potential are skilled and forwarded to the senior team. This is how Red Bull legends like four time world champion Sebastian Vettel and reigning champion Max Verstappen were recruited.
Toro Rosso was renamed Scuderia Alpha Tauri in 2020 to promote Redbull’s fashion label ‘Alpha Tauri’. Mateschitz has a significant share in F1 teams Red bull valued at $640m and in Scuderia Alpha Tauri valued at $200m making him a dominant business man in Formula 1.
Dietrich acquired a race track in Austria which he named the Red Bull ring and consequently made Red Bull the only F1 team with its own track on the F1 calendar. Sadly, Mr Mateschitz passed away on October 22nd 2022 but his legacy in F1 will never be forgotten. It is safe to say that F1 would not be where it is today without his contributions. May he rest in peace.
Michael Schumacher is a former German Formula 1 racer and one of the most successful drivers in F1. He is the only driver in F1 history to earn over $1bn in prize money and endorsements throughout his career. His love for racing began at a tender age, supported by his parents, Rolf and Elisabeth Schumacher. The former driver won his first club championship at the age of six and was the youngest member of the Karting club in Kerpen Horrem.
He went on to win several German and European kart races. By 12, he acquired a license to operate a kart even though Germany’s regulations require that a driver is at least 14 years.
Schumacher’s racing career in Formula 1 was marked by 91 race victories, winning him seven championships in the process. He finished on the podium 155 times and secured 68 pole positions. Only Lewis Hamilton has surpassed these numbers in the entire history of F1.
At the peak of his career, Michael Schumacher was paid between $80-100 million per year and earned about $50 million from his endorsements with Marlboro, Vodafone and Shell, which paid him $10 million to wear a branded hat during his public appearances.
Schumacher first announced his retirement from Formula 1 in 2006 but returned in 2010 with the Mercedes team, where he was paid an annual salary of $30m. The champion raced for three years before retiring for the second and final time in 2012. He was later involved in a tragic skiing accident that left him in a coma for several years. Schumacher is remembered as one of the shrewdest businessmen to ever get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.