Steiner says Haas “wouldn’t be around anymore” if he wasn’t team principal during Covid-affected 2020 F1 season

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Former Haas F1 team principal, Guenther Steiner believes he was a key figure in keeping the squad running during the pandemic, and argues that the team “wouldn’t be around anymore” if it wasn’t him at the helm. He also explained how he “didn’t see” his departure coming and was informed between Christmas and New Year.

Photo Credits: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Haas announced last week that Guenther Steiner would be leaving the squad effective immediately ahead of the 2024 F1 season, with his replacement being former engineering director Ayao Komatsu.

Speaking in an interview to Sky Sports last weekend, Steiner admitted that he wasn’t expecting his contract wouldn’t be renewed, and revealed that he was informed of the decision by a phone call during his break between Christmas and New Year:

“Obviously nobody was happy with the results in 2023 but I didn’t see this coming,” he admitted. “I knew that the renewal of my contract was coming up and then when a renewal is coming up it can be that it’s not getting renewed.

“I was in Italy on my Christmas break and he called me up between Christmas and New Year.”

Steiner’s trademark over the last few years has been his very vocal and sincere approach to working with his team, something that was well documented in Netflix’s “Drive To Survive” series, in which he was a prominent figure in most episodes, showing his day-to-day running of the team and some heated moments with his drivers and even phone calls with team owner Gene Haas.

When asked if this ‘celebrity’ status was something that could have hurt his image among team members and staff, Steiner gave an honest response, saying that whilst it mainly brought benefits, sponsors and exposure for an otherwise anonymous squad, he believes it might have been part of the thinking process behind his sudden departure:

“Not really, but thinking back now, it could have [negatively impacted],” he admitted. “But in the end that celebrity gave the team a lot of exposure, brought in very good sponsors like MoneyGram because they liked that because they could use that [profile].

“There are always positives and negatives to any deal so maybe there were some positives and somebody brought up the negatives.

“These are things you cannot always plan for because I was not out there trying to look for celebrity. It happened to me and only the people who know me know that, so I’m ok with that.

“I didn’t get up in the morning to be a celebrity. I get up in the morning to work. But I think it worked a lot in favour of the team because without that maybe it would have been closed before.”

The 58-year-old believes he was a key part of keeping the team running during the crisis that the pandemic brought in 2020, and even went as far as saying the team “wouldn’t be around” nowadays if he wasn’t at the helm of it at the time – but admitted Gene is the owner and can make whatever decision he wants:

“Obviously, I think without me in 2020 it wouldn’t have been around anymore. But Gene Haas owns the team so in the end he’s free to do what he wants,” he added. “I cannot accuse him of anything. I can accuse him but it doesn’t do anything because he can make his decisions, he is free to decide. 

“I am actually fine, my life will continue. I will have fun, I will stay around. Something will pop up. I’m doing good.

“In the end a good period in my life came to an end, but maybe an even better one starts.”

Steiner was part of the team since its early days in 2014, ahead of the much-anticipated debut in 2016, which proved to be a huge success. But since then, the team peaked with fifth place in the constructors’ championship in 2018, the falling down the order and finishing last out of the 10 teams twice in the last three seasons.

He believes the team needs more investment in infrastructure and facilities in order to keep up with the other squads, which are making the necessary investments to get up to speed – and he says that was a sticking point between him and owner Gene, who believes the team can do well with the tools it already has:

“I would say what is a fair assessment is when you look at the other teams where they are going since the budget cap came into place, a lot of teams – all of the teams – invested in the infrastructure.

“Therefore it is not spending money, it is investing to use the budget cap, the operational budget cap, as best as possible that you can put money in to make the car go quick. Some people started straight away in 2020, 2021. Some people started last year, but everybody is doing it.

“I think that was one of the things. I look at the other ones and I suggest what needs and should be done.”