By Abhishek Takle
MANAMA (Reuters) - Any proposed cap on the salaries of Formula One drivers should be careful not to hold back the sport's top talent, newly crowned seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.
Formula One has been discussing a cap on driver salaries as part of a wider effort to level the financial playing field between the wealthiest and poorest teams on the grid.
"I'm not personally opposed to it," the Briton, who equalled Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven titles at the last race in Turkey, told reporters in a video conference call at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
"I do think about the next up and coming young stars that are coming through and I don’t particularly see why they should be handicapped if they’re bringing something huge to the sport."
The sport has already agreed a $145 million cap on teams' overall budgets for next year which is set to reduce further to $140 million in 2022.
The salary cap, however, is not a part of those measures and is still some way away, with a proposal calling for it to be implemented in 2023 put before the Formula One Commission in October.
"If you look at other sports, there have been salary caps in some of those sports... I think the one difference is that those places the individuals own their image in many areas, they can try to maximise their image elsewhere," said Hamilton.
"This sport controls pretty much the driver’s image," added the 35-year-old, who earns an estimated 40 million pounds ($53.40 million) a year and is in negotiations over an extension to his Mercedes contract which is set to expire at the end of this year.
The drivers were the stars of the sport and Formula One needed to recognise that, said Hamilton, who having surpassed Schumacher's tally of race wins, podiums and pole positions is now the most successful driver in the sport's history.
"It is a multi-billion dollar sport and they should be rewarded for what they do bring to it," he added.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Christian Radnedge)