By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - A proposed cap on Formula One driver salaries is under discussion but still some way away, although teams are supportive of the idea, bosses said on Friday.
The idea has been bubbling away for some time and was put forward last Monday in a virtual meeting of the Formula One commission.
It proposes a $30 million cap for teams to pay drivers, starting from 2023. They can spend more but the excess will come out of what will be a $135 million annual budget cap for all teams by 2023.
The budget cap, to be introduced next year at $145 million before dropping to $140 million for 2022, does not include driver salaries.
Mercedes's six times world champion Lewis Hamilton is paid an estimated 40 million pounds ($52.13 million) but about to negotiate a new contract from 2021.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner emphasised that nothing had been voted on regarding driver salaries, and contracts agreed before any change in the rules would need to be respected.
"There's no firm rules or regulations, it's not been voted in, it's not become part of either sporting, financial or other regulations," he told reporters at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Italy's Imola circuit.
"Obviously, costs are sensitive for everybody at the moment and... it got a reasonable response.
"We'll see where it goes, but it's far from being a set of regulations because there's all kinds of legal ramifications that need to be looked at -- actually is it implementable?"
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said it was an emotional issue.
"Formula One teams, in order to be sustainable long-term and attractive sports franchises, need to show profitability like any other company out there and I think we all need to achieve that," said the Austrian.
"On the other side, it's clear that drivers, the ones that are in Formula One, are the best in the world and should earn high salaries like all the other top stars in sport."
Hamilton said he had not been aware the subject was discussed this week and the delay in signing a new deal was nothing to do with that.
"It's a surprise for us... I think it's important that the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) work closely with Formula One and get into discussions," said the Briton.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)