The 19th Melbourne Grand Prix kicks off today, as Melburnians ready for four days of car racing action, as they watch some of the wealthiest athletes in the world speed around the track.
The sport is full of big money and even bigger personalities, with F1 drivers frequently causing controversy when they come to Melbourne.
In 2010 Lewis Hamilton was booked by police for speeding and hooning around Lakeside Drive.
The future of the Melbourne Grand Prix is in doubt, with taxpayers complaining the race costs too much to warrant keeping.
In 2013 the grand prix saw the Victorian government invest $50.7 million in the event. While this is down on 2012’s spend of $56.7 million, it is still substantially higher than the $40.2 million spent on the race in 2009.
The state government has estimated economic benefits of the race between $32 million and $39 million. However, consulting firm Economists at Large found the benefit could actually be as little as $5 million (significantly less than the $50 million spent on the weekend).
But while the Victorian economy might not benefit, there’s no doubt the athletes do. Here’s a look at the highest earning F1 drivers.
The highest paid athlete in Formula 1, Fernando Alonso makes around $US30 million ($A33m) a year through his high paying salary with Ferrari and endorsement deals.
He is contracted with Ferrari until the end of 2016, at which time Alonso will be 35 and expected to be in the last years of his career.
Forbes estimates from Alonso’s salary and yearly winnings, he brings in $US28 million, while he earns $US2 million in endorsement deals.
Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001 with Minardi, before moving to Renault. He’s also raced for McLaren and has been with Ferrari since 2010.
In 2005 and 2006 Alonso finished the season in top position and in this year’s Melbourne Grand Prix he’s predicted to make the podium.
Tipped by many to place first at the weekend’s event, Hamilton is the second-highest paid driver in the F1, estimated to be earning $US27.5 million a year.
The British racing car driver is thought of as one of the most marketable faces in the sport.
Hamilton will race for Mercedes on the weekend, but has previously also raced with McLaren for six years.
He is estimated to make $US1.5 million a year in endorsements and around $US26 million from his salary and winnings.
Hamilton is tipped to be the man to knock off Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel from the top spot on the podium in the season-opening grand prix event.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel is predicted to earn $US18 million a year from salary and winnings, but he is known in Australia not for his wealth, but for his rivalry with former Australian team mate Mark Webber.
Webber, now retired, and Vettel had a fierce competition which seemingly came to a head last year when the pair regularly made public comments about the other’s behaviour and performance.
At the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, Webber accused Vettel of disobeying team orders when he overtook Webber to steal the victory, while Vettel said Webber didn’t deserve to win the race.
If Vettel claims top spot at this weekend’s grand prix he’ll do what no driver has ever done before, win 10 World Championship grands prix in succession.
Button is estimated to earn between $US14 million and $US16 million a year and reached the heights of his career in 2009 when he won the World Championship driving for Brawn GP.
Since then he’s struggled to make the top four in the year-end standings.
The race this weekend is likely to be tough for Button, who was rocked by the death of his father John Button in January this year.
Rosberg made his F1 debut at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix and is expected to earn between $US14 million and $US15 million this year.
Rosberg will also race for Mercedes and, like Hamilton, is tipped for a podium finish this weekend.
Joining the Mercedes team in 2009, Rosberg was formerly the teammate of racing great Michael Schumacher.
Since 2009, Rosberg has won three grands prix and in 2013 was ranked sixth in the overall standings.
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