“A person I respect tremendously” — various Haas F1 members react to Steiner’s departure

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Haas have certainly had a rough go this season. 2023 marked the second time in 3 years that the team finished tenth and last in the Constructors’ Championship, and Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were dealt a bad car with a low-budget development program. With a team that put everything into the development of the 2022 car, it is not shocking, but disappointing nonetheless.

However, the disappointment continued as yesterday, the only Team Principal the team has ever known, Gunther Steiner, announced that he was leaving the team. He will be replaced from within the organization, Ayao Komatsu will head the team onward into a post-Steiner era.

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

There are always people that are shocked by anyone’s departure, however this one hit hard to someone in particular: Pietro Fittipaldi. The Haas reserve driver took the time during a IndyCar press conference, attended by Pit Debrief and other selected media, to talk about how he felt regarding the situation, and what Steiner meant to him, as someone who gave him the opportunity to race in F1.

“Oh, Guenther, I’m extremely grateful to him for the trust he had in me. I learned a lot through him as a boss, as a friend, as a mentor. He’s a person that I respect tremendously.

“It’s a decision that the team made, but I know that working with Guenther, he was a great team boss, and I learned a lot from him, and I can’t thank him enough, to him and both Gene, as well, for the opportunities they gave me in my racing career.”

That being said, there was one person that thought of the situation as “just business“, the team’s owner, Gene Haas. In the end, he had the final say on whether Steiner was to stay on or not. The financial commitment that Haas puts in cannot be understated, and the team having no results is frustrating for him. When it came to his feelings for Gunther the person, he had nothing but good things to say. However, his patience has worn out on his management abilities.

“It is, I like Guenther, he’s a really nice person, a really good personality,” says Haas. “We had a tough end to the year. I don’t understand that, I really don’t. Those are good questions to ask Guenther, what went wrong. At the end of the day, it’s about performance. I have no interest in being 10th anymore.”

When speaking about the differences between Steiner of Komatsu, Haas said that the difference is people vs technology.

“I think Guenther had more of a human-type approach to everything with people and the way he interacted with people, he was very good at that. Ayao is very technical, he looks at things based on statistics – this is what we’re doing bad, where can we do better. “

“It’s a different approach. We really do need something different because we weren’t really doing that well. Like I said, it all comes down to eight years in, dead last. Nothing more I can say on that.”

However, Haas reiterated that the main problem that involved Steiner’s departure was the team’s performance. A failure to grab a podium was what struck Haas the most:

It came down to performance,” he said. “Here we are in our eighth year, over 160 races – we have never had a podium. The last couple of years, we’ve been 10th or ninth.”

“I’m not sitting here saying it’s Guenther’s fault, or anything like that, but it just seems like this was an appropriate time to make a change and try a different direction, because it doesn’t seem like continuing with what we had is really going to work.”

According to sources, the Italian-American did not get the opportunity to say farewell at the Haas factory in Banbury. This has understandably left employees disappointing as the 58-year-old had been there from day one. It suggests a fractured end to the relationship between Gene Haas and Steiner.

With Steiner gone, it is now time to observe how a post-Steiner Haas team will evolve and if the change will be worth it in the long run.