Floridians have an innate need for speed on the roadways, and the world's most elite racing series, Formula One, begins a new era this weekend in Australia. In time for the new season, we take a look at the top 10 earners in the sport.
10. Romain Grosjean, Lotus $2.05M USD (€1.5M)
After years of too many crashes and not enough results, the Frenchman finally pulled it together in 2013, scoring six podiums in the process. He was rewarded with a $700,000 raise for 2014, and if he shows the same speed and consistency as he did last season, a drive with one of the big four teams beckons in 2015.
9. Sergio Perez, Force India $2.75M USD (€2M)
After a standout rookie season followed by a single disappointing season at McLaren, 2014 will be a year of career rebuilding for the 24-year-old Mexican speedster. Forced into driving for a smaller team, he will need to show the brilliance he did in his rookie season to remind team bosses what he is capable of.
8. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull $3.45M USD (€2.5M)
Given that this is only Daniel Ricciardo's third full season in Formula One, his comparatively small salary is a representation of the gamble the four-time champion Red Bull team are taking on him. With a competitive car and a world champion teammate to compare himself to, the affable Aussie will be aiming for consistent podiums and a breakout win to repay the faith, and move further up this list in 2015.
7. Felipe Massa, Williams $5.5M USD (€4M)
After 8 years at Ferrari, the Brazilian finds a new home at Williams in 2014. His salary might not be what he was used to at the famous Italian team, but with less corporate pressure and a team built around him, 2014 might be the year Massa and Williams return to the top step of the podium.
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari $13.75M USD (€10M)
After a stint in rallying and two successful comeback years at Lotus, the iceman is back at Ferrari where he won both his and the team's last title in 2007. Nothing but a championship in 2014 will do for the famously close-mouthed Finn, who is being paid considerably less than his teammate Fernando Alonso. If he beats him this year, the man many consider to be the fastest in Formula One will expect a big raise in 2015.
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes $15.1M USD (€11M)
A dark horse for 2014, the 28-year-old German could have a standout year. After a stellar 2013 where he won two races (including sweeping the famous Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo), Mercedes is expecting big things from Rosberg this year. Don't be surprised to see him higher on this list in 2015.
4. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull $22M USD (€16M)
With more pole positions (45), wins (39), and championships (4) than any other driver in the field, Vettel is a relative bargain for the all-conquering Red Bull team. New engine regulations may hurt the team in 2014, but expect the German to be there or thereabouts.
3. Jenson Button, McLaren $22M USD (€16M)
After failing to even reach the podium last season, the Englishman needs a big turnaround in 2014 to continue to justify his massive salary. New regulations for the season should help the traditionally innovative team, but Button will need to find more consistency if he hopes to help the team to their first title in six years.
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes $27.5M USD (€20M)
Since his maiden championship in 2008, Lewis Hamitlon has had nearly everything—race wins, Hollywood stars for friends, and a girlfriend who is a Pussycat Doll. The only thing missing for the British driver is another championship. His star power keeps him tied at the top of the list of highest paid drivers, but with a fast car, new regulations that favor his driving style, and a year of fitting in with his new team, he has no excuses not to deliver in 2014.
1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari $27.5M USD (€20M)
Ferrari know he's good. The fans know he's good. He knows he's good. But in his fifth year of driving for the Scuderia in an era that has been dominated by Vettel and Red Bull, the 32-year-old Spaniard knows he's running out of time to capture another title. If the results don't come in 2014, it'll be hard for Ferrari to justify keeping him as the highest paid driver in Formula One.