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Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
10:52 AM 11th January 2024
sports

Shock Ousting Of Steiner At Haas

 
Yesterday was a truly turbulent day in the life of the Haas Formula 1 team as it witnessed the surprise ousting of its highly popular and charismatic team principal, Guenther Steiner, his internal replacement with the Japanese chief engineer, Ayao Komatsu, and the departure of its Italian technical director, Simone Resta.

Haas dropping Guenther Steiner has shocked F1 and its fans worldwide
Haas dropping Guenther Steiner has shocked F1 and its fans worldwide
The 58-year-old Steiner has Italian and American nationality, having been born in the South Tyrol German-speaking area of northern Italy, something that contributes so significantly to his unusual accent when speaking English. The creation of the Haas F1 operation, which is based these days in the USA’s Kannapolis, Banbury in the UK, and Maranello, Italy, alongside the iconic Ferrari team, was the original idea of Steiner, and he found the American businessman Gene Haas willing to support the project financially. As a result, the new entry first appeared on a Formula 1 grid back in 2016 and has survived there since.

Unfortunately for Steiner, the team finished tenth and last in the 2023 Constructors’ Championship, while in contrast, rivals like Williams were improving, and this reduced its share of last season’s prize pot. The result was a need for additional investment if 2024 results were to improve. Backer Haas seems happy to remain in F1, but is keen to focus instead on improved use of the existing resources and infrastructure as the best way ahead. This policy change of stance may have contributed too to the departure yesterday of 53-year-old technical director Resta, who had joined the team from Ferrari as part of a close collaboration between both outfits, and it is unclear whether he will now return there.

New team principal Ayao Komatsu faces a difficult challenge
New team principal Ayao Komatsu faces a difficult challenge
Steiner’s exit has led to the promotion of 47-year-old experienced chief engineer Komatsu as his immediate replacement as team principal. A new chief operating officer based in Europe who will oversee all non-competition-related matters and departments will assist him.

Formula 1 has long been known as the Piranha Club due to the often cut-throat nature of what goes on within the guarded barriers of its paddock, but none of us foresaw Steiner’s forced departure yesterday. It’s true that he may have been forced to pay the ultimate price for the team’s highly disappointing 2023 season, but his departure has still felt like something of an F1 earthquake. He has been one of the sport’s biggest current stars, with a profile only bettered by a handful of leading drivers such as Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton. Steiner is certainly an unusual, if very likeable, character, known for talking a lot of common sense and saying exactly what he thinks without any pretensions of grandeur. It has to be said that he does have a habit of regularly embellishing his thoughts with an excessive use of the “f” word. However, this has also led to him having something akin to a cult status around the world, helped by his many contributions to Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” behind-the-scenes coverage, which has attracted so many fans new to F1 and particularly younger ones.

Last year’s Haas car often showed decent qualifying pace but suffered on race days
Last year’s Haas car often showed decent qualifying pace but suffered on race days
Two of Steiner’s key strengths are that he is refreshingly not at all corporate and has a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour. As the sport seeks to keep increasing its global popularity, he is highly likely to remain in F1 in some capacity. Last season, the Haas car was often pretty impressive in terms of qualifying pace before suffering badly from tyre degradation on race days, and it certainly remains to be seen whether the new senior management duo at Haas will lead the team to better times or not.