If the following unconfirmed numbers are to be believed, Ferrari may need to sew a brick into the left-hand backside of Kimi Raikkonen’s overalls next year to counter-balance the weight of his hip-pocket.

Yes, he’s virtually mute, and regularly under the influence of Lapin Kulta, but the Prancing Horse’s Finnish recruit will take off in ’07 where the retired Michael Schumacher departed – with a cool $1.27 million every week.

Plus or minus a few wads of hundred euro notes, 27-year-old Raikkonen is set to assume the Philip Morris-funded pay packet for being Ferrari’s “number one” from New Year’s Day until at least late 2009, which Schumacher supplemented with private sponsorship in recent years to earn a total of up to $100m for the year.

Don’t believe for a minute, though, that Schumacher has given up adding to his estimated $800m fortune. The German, while maintaining his commercial endorsement deals, has signed on to become team boss Jean Todt’s “assistant” next year. Translation: $13m, at least.

That’s less than what his brother Ralf ($22.8m) and Jenson Button ($20m) will make next year, but more than Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa ($12.5m) and much of the Formula One midfield.

At the pinnacle of world motor sport, however, you don’t have to be particularly quick to rake in the cash. At the end of 2005, embarrassed by the reaction in Japan after dumping a home-grown hero, Honda set up a satellite team for Takuma Sato, who finished nearly every race in 2006 next-to-last.

Because of his value to the priceless Japanese market, Honda apparently paid him just shy of $10m this year. Never heard of him? Sato is unlikely to care — he made more mullah than big names including David Coulthard and Mark Webber.

In 2007, Sato’s new British teammate, Anthony Davidson, will join F1’s equivalent of a homeless shelter with his paltry $318,000, while rookie trio Robert Kubica, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are all still waiting to hit the big time with their less than $3.5m pay packets.

Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, has discovered why every Grand Prix pilot’s meaning-of-life is to be world champion. With two on the trot, the Spaniard has multiplied his Renault salary by almost a factor of five in switching to McLaren. After making less than $10m this year, he will earn $44.5m in 2007.

But don’t feel sorry for the bosses. The F1 circus may cost more than $3 billion to put on each season, but every cent – and enough left over for a private jet or two – is covered by private sponsorship, such as McLaren’s new $70m per year title deal with Vodafone. Ringleader Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, is a regular on Forbes‘s annual list of the world’s billionaires, with at least $4.3 billion in the bank.

Peter Fray

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