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Formula 1 Salaries vs. Points Won: Which Driver Provided the Best Value in 2014?

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2014

Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas provided good value to their teams in 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas provided good value to their teams in 2014.Clive Mason/Getty Images

From the end of the Australian Grand Prix—the first race of the season—the 2014 Formula One titles were never really in doubt. Mercedes built a dominant car and easily won the constructors' championship with three races to spare.

Their drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, took the battle for the drivers' championship down to the final race of the season, but it had long been obvious that one of them would win it.

That Silver Arrows sweep did not come cheaply, though. Like Red Bull—who won the previous four drivers' and constructors' titles—Mercedes have one of the largest budgets in the sport, spending liberally on both their car development and driver salaries.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton won 16 of 19 races in 2014.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton won 16 of 19 races in 2014.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Even so, Mercedes were so far ahead of the pack in 2014 that they came out on top of our team value-for-money rankings last week. Williams and Force India, both teams with smaller budgets (and, not coincidentally, Mercedes engine customers), were just behind.

But what about the individual drivers? Just like among the teams, there is a huge discrepancy between what the top drivers and the rookies with some of the smaller teams earn. Over the summer break, we ranked the top drivers according how much they were paid for each point they scored this year. Now it is time to update that list.

As I wrote in the midseason article, the number of points a driver scores is as much a product of their car's competitiveness as it their driving skills. But these rankings can still give us an idea of who might have over- or under-performed this season.

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Note that the list only includes the 17 drivers who scored points in 2014.

Euros per Point Scored in 2014
DriverSalary (€)Points€ per Point
Daniel Ricciardo750,0002383151
Valtteri Bottas1,000,0001865376
Kevin Magnussen1,000,0005518,182
Felipe Massa4,000,00013429,851
Daniil Kvyat250,000831,250
Jean-Eric Vergne750,0002234,091
Nico Rosberg12,000,00031737,855
Nico Hulkenberg4,000,0009641,667
Sergio Perez3,000,0005950,847
Lewis Hamilton20,000,00038452,083
Jenson Button16,000,000126126,984
Sebastian Vettel22,000,000167131,737
Fernando Alonso22,000,000161136,646
Jules Bianchi500,0002250,000
Romain Grosjean3,000,0008375,000
Kimi Raikkonen22,000,00055400,000
Pastor Maldonado3,000,00021,500,000
Salary figures are from Business Book GP (via TomorrownewsF1.com)

Daniel Ricciardo was the revelation of the season. No one—except maybe Mark Webber—thought he would not only win three races, but also convincingly beat his four-time defending world champion teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

As one of the cheapest drivers on the grid, Ricciardo's success is all the more surprising. He finished third in the drivers' championship, behind only the Mercedes duo, and was 71 points clear of Vettel, with twice as many podium finishes.

Valtteri Bottas, another man driving for near F1's equivalent of minimum wage, also bested a more experienced, grand-prix-winning teammate, Felipe Massa (although Massa also provided very good value). Finishing fourth in the championship, Bottas scored 186 points, including six podiums for Williams. From 2005 to 2013, the team from Grove had managed a total of eight podium finishes.

It is telling that, despite having one of the largest budgets in the sport, three of the top six drivers in the value-for-money ranking are Red Bull-backed. In addition to Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne are near the top of the list.

Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The Red Bull Junior Team, headed by former F1 driver Helmut Marko, has been particularly successful at identifying and developing young drivers and bringing them into F1. By consistently promoting from within instead of signing the most in-demand drivers on the grid, Red Bull (and sister team Toro Rosso) have been able to keep their driver salaries reasonable, freeing up more money to develop their cars.

Hamilton and Rosberg, meanwhile, are only in the middle of the pack, but the value and exposure they provided in winning both titles for Mercedes far exceeds any simplistic salary-for-points comparison. 

At the other end of the list, Kimi Raikkonen was a particular disappointment this year. When he announced his return to Ferrari, everyone was hoping for a great battle between Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. Instead, Raikkonen could not get comfortable under the new technical regulations and Alonso scored nearly three times as many points as the Finn.

The Lotus drivers—Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado—are also at the bottom of the ranking, although this is more a product of Lotus' dreadful car, powered by the disappointing Renault engine, than it is of their skills...at least in Grosjean's case. Maldonado, meanwhile, continued to plant his car in the barriers or other cars on a regular basis.

Pastor Maldonado crashed during free practice in Singapore.
Pastor Maldonado crashed during free practice in Singapore.Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Next year, Lotus will switch to Mercedes power units, though. Both drivers are being retained by the team, so they will have an opportunity to move up this ranking in 2015.

And for next season, there are already three rookies confirmed on the grid: Felipe Nasr at Sauber and Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Jr. at Toro Rosso. The Toro Rosso drivers, in particular, should provide good value for their salaries, if their performances in the junior categories are any indication.

Nasr has had an impressive career, as well, finishing third in GP2 this year and winning as many races as the champion, Jolyon Palmer. However, the Brazilian will be hamstrung by his car unless Sauber make a big leap from the C33, which, in 2014, became their first car to go a full F1 season without scoring a point.

In the end, value is not as important as results in F1—at least for the top teams. But if a driver can provide both, that is nice bonus and will certainly help them find a place on the grid as the number of race seats shrinks with Marussia and potentially Caterham folding their operations.

  

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