Formula 1 drivers are some of the highest paid sporting athletes on the planet. But that doesn’t mean they necessarily need to buy all of their own road cars. This article looks at whether F1 drivers get free cars, and what kind of company cars they are usually seen driving around in.
do F1 drivers get free cars?
Most F1 drivers get free cars, given to them by their teams, engine suppliers or sponsors.
Whilst we would all love to be given a free car, let’s just remind ourselves that F1 drivers are some of the highest paid sports stars in the world. Most drivers at the top of the sport are getting paid huge salaries, well in to the tens of millions each year.
Max Verstappen is reportedly earning over $50 million dollars this season, Lewis Hamilton is getting paid more than $30 million and Alonso is on $20 million. Even some of the new drivers such as the American Logan Sargeant are reportedly still taking home over 1 million bucks.
With these ridiculous pay checks, why on earth would anyone need to give F1 drivers a free car for the road? Well, it’s all for brand exposure and marketing
brand exposure and marketing
A number of the teams such as Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Alpine also make road cars. Exposure through the ever increasing popularity of F1 is great for their road cars sales. Even more so if their F1 drivers are successful and winning races or World Championships.
The popularity of F1 has skyrocketed over the last few years, launching the drivers and team principals to new levels of worldwide fame. A team wants its drivers, the best drivers in the world, to be seen driving their cars on the road. If it’s good enough for Lewis Hamilton to pop to the shops in, then its good enough for me.
F1 driver company cars
F1 drivers are given free cars. But think of them as company cars. It’s highly unlikely that F1 drivers are simply gifted a car by the manufacturer or team to keep forever.
Instead, usually there are a number of different free cars that drivers have access to. As the F1 circus moves all over the world, the drivers will need to get between their hotels and the various race tracks. Usually local dealers will provide cars for the drivers. In the off season there will be other cars available for the drivers to knock around in at home.
list of F1 driver free cars / company cars
Whilst I can’t access the fine print of each driver’s contract, I can make a pretty good guess as to what company cars or free cars the F1 drivers are given. Below is a list of the current (and some previous) F1 drivers and their company cars.
Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes: free cars
Lewis’s personal car collection has been over the media for years. One-off Pagani Zondas, original AC Cobras and now even a Mercedes AMG One, all of which he paid for himself. But recently he announced he’s stopped driving all of his gas guzzlers and swapped to electric cars in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint.
One of his latest cars is the Mercedes EQC 400. This fully electric SUV is a relatively modest car for a F1 superstar, but it ticks the boxes of being electric and representing his employer’s brand.
Mercedes tweeted that Lewis was so impressed after his test drive that he’d already ordered one. It’s unlikely that he’s paid full whack for one, but if he has then no doubt Mercedes will loan him other ones to use at the circuits across the world.
George Russell - Mercedes: free cars
Before he was with Mercedes, George Russell was with Williams. Williams don’t make cars themselves, but they were using a Mercedes engine. Plus George was on the Mercedes driver development program, so he had lots of tie-ins.
He posted about two separated Mercs he owned whilst at Williams. A C63 AMG and an AMG GT. I’d be surprised if these were given to him free by Mercedes whilst he was a Williams driver, but he was still earning enough cash to pay for them himself. But no doubt there would have been a ‘mates rates’ deal done.
Now he’s at Mercedes he’s been pictured with a G Wagon. He was given use of the SUV free by Mercedes, and whilst it doesn’t quite give off the same green vibes that Lewis is aiming for, it does at least promote the brand.
Carlos Sainz - Ferrari: bought a car
Carlos Sainz is infamous for his choice of road car. At 18 years old he was given a Mk5 Golf GTi by his parents to drive around in, which he’s kept and used ever since.
The trusty Golf has been his workhorse for years and he’s not bought another car until recently. Carlos filmed himself collecting his new Ferrari 812 Competizione which he personalised and spec’d himself.
In the video he makes it pretty clear that he’s now an official Ferrari client. He didn’t get this car for free, he spent his hard earn millions on it. Although I’m sure Ferrari knocked a couple of Euros off for him being a good employee.
Charles Leclerc - Ferrari: bought a car
Charles Leclerc is most often seen driving around his home country of Monaco in his 488 GTB with a personalised paint job. This is a very expensive car, and with the personalisation on it it’s highly unlikely he would have been given it free from Ferrari.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez - Red Bull: free cars
Despite being at the front of the F1 field, the Red Bull team are not a car manufacturer. Now that they also make their own engines they don’t even have an engine supplier to promote through carefully selected company cars either.
In the past, Red Bull used Honda as their engine supplier. Back then both Max and Sergio were seen using Honda Civic Type Rs are their company cars, loaned to the drivers for free to use at the circuits.
Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll - Aston Martin: free cars
No prizes for guessing what company cars the Aston Martin F1 drivers are using. Yep, Aston Martins.
Fernando posted about receiving one of his dream cars from Aston – a DBX 707 edition. These SUVs cost over $200,00 but it’s more in Aston’s interest to loan one to Alonso for free and have him drive around in it, post and tweet about it than it is to make him pay for one.
Lance Stroll, son of Lawrence Stroll who owns a 23% stake in Aston Martin, can probably drive whatever type of Aston he wants.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri - McLaren: free cars
Lando was public about his ‘new ride’ that McLaren automotive hooked him up with in 2019, a 570s. It’s pretty likely that he was given use of this car for free, until he either left the team of they wanted to upgrade their star F1 driver to a newer model.
Oscar Piastri, the new McLaren F1 driver, was filmed being handed the keys to a new McLaren Artura on his first day at work in 2023. A ‘perk of the job’ as Oscar put it, probably more likely to be a PR stunt, but I fully expect he’ll be given free reign to use the Artura, or any other models McLaren have going spare, when he’s in the UK.
Esteban Ocon - Alpine: free cars
The French driver Esteban Ocon has been with the Alpine team for a couple of years now. Alpine produce the A110 sports car, and in 2022 they released a special edition in honour of the Alpine F1 car’s paint scheme.
Two of these were made, one each for the team drivers at the time who were Ocon and Alonso. These cars were used by each driver to ferry themselves around at the Emigliano Romana Grand Prix in Italy. No doubt Alonso would have had to give his free car back when he departed Alpine for Aston Martin.
Yuki Tsunoda - Alpha Tauri: free cars
Just as Red Bull used to use Honda engines, Alpha Tauri also did the same. When Honda were providing their power plants they were also providing the drivers with Honda Civic Type R FK8s for free.
The Alpha Tauri F1 driver Yuki Tsunoda was often pictured driving himself to the circuit in one of these at various races across the calendar.
Valtteri Bottas - Alfa Romeo: bought a car
Bottas departed Mercedes for Alfa Romeo and immediately set his sights on driving around in something Italian. The Alfa Giulia GTAm had recently been released and he fancied one.
It was reported that Bottas purchased the car outright and of his own accord. I’m sure there would have been some encouragement from Alfa Romeo management in return for a slight discount.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso - Ferrari: free cars
One of the weirdest F1 driver company car tie-ups we ever saw was when Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, driving for Ferrari, were each given a special edition Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
A strange link? Well Jeep are owned by Chrysler who in turn were owned by Fiat, who also own Ferrari. Rather than splashing the cash on two of Ferrari’s latest supercars, the F1 drivers were each given a free car from the Jeep catalogue instead. Well they definitely weren’t going to buy them themselves, were they!?
The Jeeps were painted to match the Ferrari F1 car colour scheme and modified with lower ride height and bigger wheels. I’m sure the drivers were very grateful…