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Racing all the way to the bank

FORMULA 1 HAS ALWAYS BEEN a playground for the rich. Long before the current era of corporate billionaires, fans were entertained by aristocratic racers such as Prince Bira of Siam and Wolfgang von Trips, or playboy heirs like Revlon’s Peter Revson. But modern F1 seems to be attracting more of the ultra-wealthy than ever before and, as Motor Sport’s first ever F1 rich list shows, having a billion dollars in the bank won’t even get you into the top 10.

The list is about more than simple voyeurism, peering into people’s private businesses. The money that is listed here has had a direct impact on grand prix racing. Whether this is for better or worse is a discussion that can be had at another time, but the effect of multi-million dollar investments on the sport has ensured that it is a world away from the less glitzy days of a generation ago. So who holds the purse strings – and where did all the money come from?

There are 11 billionaires directly involved in the series at present, from Red Bull linchpins like Chalerm Yoovidhya and Dietrich Mateschitz, to John Malone – the boss of F1’s owner Liberty Media. All bases of the sport are covered.

Bernie Ecclestone may be the first name that springs to mind for many people when they think of F1 billionaires, the sport’s former supremo is in the reckoning here, and is certainly also in with a shout for the title of ‘richest F1 driver’ due to his unsuccessful attempts to qualify for both the 1958 Monaco and British grands prix.

The richest man ever to qualify for a Formula 1 race, pasta heir Paolo Barilla, doesn’t make the list despite his reported billion-dollar fortune, as the focus is only on people currently involved. So Ecclestone, who is still F1’s chairman emeritus, makes the grade, but famous figures such as Ron Dennis, Paddy McNally, Roger Penske or Michael Schumacher do not because they no longer have active F1 roles.

The line-up covers drivers, team owners, circuit bosses and executives from across F1, but only includes those with a current involvement. Indirect team owners who are rarely seen at the races are discounted, so Yoovidhya – who often attends grands prix wearing a Red Bull Racing team shirt – is included, but H&M retail tycoon Stefan Persson, who ultimately owns a stake in the Alfa Romeo Sauber team but rarely attends the races, is not.

The figures are estimates based on extensive research gathered by the authors for their Formula Money F1 business reports. They cover sources including company documents, local and specialist news reports plus the authors’ own archives valuing team acquisitions and driver salaries.

Family wealth is given in cases where it is not possible accurately to divide it between closely related individuals.

The list does not include the bosses of sponsors, as their F1 involvement is indirect, or famous racing fans. So even though they are regulars in the paddock, billionaire Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté and the world’s fifth richest man Carlos Slim do not appear.

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About Motor Sport Magazine

Featuring our exclusive lead story on Martin Brundle being reunited with his Jaguar XJR-12, an extract from Gordon Murray's new book, and our tribute to the phenomenal driver that was Niki Lauda.