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Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

F1 stars may have to take pay cut

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali with Kimi Raikkonen
Domenicali may be poised for some uncomfortable talks with his star driver

Formula One's top drivers may be forced to take a cut in wages as the global financial crisis hits the sport.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, whose driver Kimi Raikkonen's salary is the highest in F1 at 34m, said teams had to make savings in all areas.

"When teams must significantly reduce costs, one could say you need an ace to make the difference," Domenicali said.

"But I feel in the current climate the big teams won't be able any more to offer the amounts some drivers get."

Felipe Massa, who missed out on winning the 2008 drivers' title for Ferrari by a single point, did not share Domenicali's views on reducing wages.

The Brazilian is believed to be paid 8m a year by the Italian marque and when asked about taking a wage cut, he said: "I'm not inclined to it.

"In a competitive sport like this, the driver plays a fundamental part, and the cost of the drivers are small compared to the total budget of the teams.

"The more people work to reduce costs, the better it is going to be for everybody."

Domenicali, who was talking in an interview with the Italian magazine Autosprint, said he expected salaries within F1 to undergo "a major revolution" in the next few months.

Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, has by far the biggest salary in the sport, but there are a number of other leading F1 drivers earning salaries of more than 10m - such as Renault's double world champion Fernando Alonso and this year's title winner Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.

A select few leading engineers in the sport - such as Red Bull's chief technical officer Adrian Newey - also earn salaries of several million a year.

Raikkonen's Ferrari contract was extended in September until the end of 2010, despite the Finn's largely lacklustre season, but Domenicali said changing it was not impossible.

"Anything can be modified in life," he said. "The important thing is wanting to do it. We know the terms of the contract.

"However, I'm convinced this issue will soon be discussed among all the teams and with every driver."

His comments follow those made by fellow team boss Frank Williams, who said last week that he was in favour of a driver salary cap.

"We've raised this issue several times and will take the opportunity to do so again," Williams told British newspapers.

"We'd also strongly support a budget cap, introduced gradually, if it could be properly policed."

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso
Hamilton, Raikkonen and Alonso are F1's highest-paid drivers
Williams dominated F1 in the 1980s and 1990s, but has seen his team's competitiveness slip in the last decade.

And he admitted that enforcing limits on the salaries of top drivers would be very difficult.

"If McLaren don't want to pay Hamilton 15m, someone else will. How do we stop that?" he said.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo insisted he would not swap the English 2008 world champion for Felipe Massa, who lost the title to Hamilton by a single point.

"Hamilton is a great driver," Di Montezemolo said at Ferrari's HQ in Maranello. "But, with all respect, I wouldn't swap him for Felipe Massa.

"Felipe is extremely popular, for the man he is, for the great driver he's demonstrated to be, and for the beautiful way he lost the championship.

"If Massa did not win it this year it was because we (the team) were to blame.

"It would have been normal for him to win. He didn't manage to because of our mistakes."

Meanwhile, on a visit to the American headquarters of team sponsor Mobil, Hamilton concedes the new raft of regulations for 2009 could affect his title defence.

"With the new regulations it's going to make it very tough to win the championship again," the 23-year-old said.

"But I think as a team we are in a position to pull together and make a difference in some other way."

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see also
Prodrive signals renewed F1 hopes
17 Dec 08 |  Formula One
F1 unveils cost-cutting blueprint
12 Dec 08 |  Formula One
The battle to save Formula One
12 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Cost-cutting plan agreed for F1
10 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Honda will assist buyer - Mosley
10 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Williams committed to F1 future
08 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Others may follow Honda - Mosley
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Global crisis ends Honda F1 era
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Harsh reality catches up with F1
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One

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