In his last year racing for Lotus, before leaving for McLaren and to win three Formula 1 titles, Ayrton Senna, received 60% of the salary Felipe Massa currently earns at Ferrari, adjusted for inflation.
In that season, he demanded in written to be the No.1 driver, with the priority to choose parts. He won a bonus for points and was promised a prize if he won the title. He wasn’t obliged to participate in the advertising campaign of the cigarette brand that sponsored the team and was forbidden from practicing extreme sports. For fiscal reasons, he promised to move out of England.
Senna’s contract with Lotus for the 1987 and 1988 seasons is available on Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, a virtual compendium on the cigarette industry held by the University of California, in the U.S.
At the time, Lotus had a strong partnership with R.J. Reynolds, which displayed the brand of Camel cigarettes on its cars.
The contract has 19 pages and seven appendixes. Formula1 drivers’ contracts nowadays have hundreds of pages.
Senna was a promising driver. But he was far from the top. He had four victories then- he reached 41 before he died in 1994-. After his debut at Toleman in 1984, he raced for Lotus the following year.
The document shows that his company’s headquarters was in a tax haven. The contract was in the name of Ayrton Senna Promotions Limited, from Nassau, in the Bahamas. It expired two years later and set a deadline to be cancelled by either side, without preference or fines: August 8, 1987. Senna used that right and negotiated with McLaren. On September 4, he announced he would race for his new team. In 1988 he became champion for the first time.
His salary shows how much Formula One changed in 25 years. Lotus paid Senna US$ 1.5 million in 1987. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to US$ 4.7 million (R$ 10.7 million) nowadays. According to “F-1 Business” magazine, Massa’s salary is R$ 17.6 million.
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who receive the highest salaries, make some R$ 59 million.
He would earn a bonus equivalent to 16% of his salary if he won the championship. Bonuses paid by race promoters were divided among the team and the mechanics. And each point he won represented an extra US$ 4,000 – he reached 57 that year, finishing in third.
The team also paid for life insurance for him equivalent to R$ 405,000 today. There are several other interesting facts. The trophies, for example, were split between Senna and the team, but Lotus had the preference in choosing. He could not go skiing, ride motorcycles or practice hang gliding.
The Nacional Bank cap, however, was not allowed: the team demanded the right in 1987 and sold the space to French petroleum company Elf.
And perhaps the most important: guarantees of Honda engines and that he would receive preferential treatment. In clause 4.3, Lotus assures that Senna “will be the No. 1 driver, having priority in the use of equipment.”
Poor Satoru Nakajima.