‘Some days I think ‘why the hell do I do this?’: Steiner on Haas’ future – and Andretti


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A couple of months ago, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner lamented the demise of what termed the ‘dinosaur’ archetype of Formula 1 team principal.

Classing himself and fierce foil Toto Wolff among a list including the likes of Ron Dennis, Eddie Jordan and Frank Williams, Horner decried how modern team leaders have become “much more technical than the entrepreneurial side”. In his view, there were more “big characters and personalities” in his early years heading Red Bull.

While Horner might have a point, it seems he forgot one of his former employees, and perhaps the biggest “character and personality” of any of his peers on the pit wall. A man whose outraged outbursts and sometimes vulgar vocabulary have earned him cult status among fans and the wider public through a certain Netflix documentary series. The hard-nosed Haas team principal, Guenther Steiner.

He is a busy man. As well as running the smallest team on the F1 grid and his own composites design and manufacturing business in the United States, the 58-year old has even become a published author this year with the release of ‘Surviving to Drive’ – his personal account of Haas F1’s tumultuous 2022 season. Today, Steiner has offered RaceFans a slot in his Thursday schedule ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix to have a frank on-record conversation. So as RaceFans asks Steiner how draining it really is to be him, he’s typically honest in his reply.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, Losail International Circuit, 2023
Haas slipped to ninth in the standings at Losail
“It is quite tiring,” he confesses amid the hustle and bustle around us in the paddock at the Losail International Circuit. “But in the end, if you choose to do something, you get that additional energy to do it.

“There are some days when you really think ‘why the hell do I do all this?’. Honestly, you just think about it. But then again, I think it’s a privilege in life to do things you really like to do. I don’t hate any of the things I do. Obviously, I have to do jobs which I hate on a daily basis maybe, but it’s for 50 minutes, 20 minutes – like speaking with some journalist with red hair, that’s one of them…”

Steiner’s telling grin betrays his sarcastic nature. But he can afford to be cheeky as he remains at the helm of the team he was asked to lead by team owner Gene Haas. Eight seasons into their existence, Haas may not be giants in their sport, but they are fit, healthy and able to fight. That’s far better than so many teams who have attempted to join Formula 1 over the last 30 years as entirely new entries can say.

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But although Haas has proven its viability to compete, it’s struggling to achieve the escape velocity required to move from the back of the grid into the midfield and beyond. Just days after this interview, the team lost eighth place in the constructors’ championship to Alfa Romeo.

Steiner showed Schumacher the door after his second season
Having already announced that the team will be retaining drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg for 2024, after bringing the latter into their team to replace Mick Schumacher, Steiner is clearly betting on consistency and experience over unproven talent. But even though his team has appeared to be spinning its wheels at times in the quest for progress up the order, Steiner insists that better days lie ahead for Haas.

“I think we’ve made steps,” he says. “In Formula 1, to make steps like this, you cannot make them from today to tomorrow. You always need to keep on doing planning for the future.

“But when we made the decision last year that we wanted to go back to have experienced drivers, that was the reason why. We just want to be solid, knowing what is right, what is wrong. Just again strengthen the foundation of the team. It’s nice to see that it seems to be working. Obviously we are not, performance-wise with the car, where we want to be, but at least we know where we need to work at. It’s not the drivers. The car is just using the tyres too much in the race.”

For their second home grand prix of the season in Austin this weekend Haas will finally introduce a much-anticipated upgrades package to boost their efforts over the final five rounds of the season. This was something the team did not do in 2022 – a year where Schumacher’s frequent errors proved costly in the championship as well as for their budget. But in a budget cap era, would Haas have been able to introduce a late round of upgrades last year with all the money spent on repairs and replacement parts?

“I would say no, it wouldn’t have been possible,” he says. “Because I know the budget cap where we at last year, we couldn’t have afforded or we wouldn’t have stayed in the budget cap if we would have done an upgrade like this last year. We would’ve been outside of the budget cap.”

Now that this year, his team has been able to introduce a final upgrade package at the end of the season, does that validate his decision to bring in Hulkenberg and go for experience over youth on the driver front?

“We can bring this upgrade this year because we didn’t do any in the beginning of the year because we couldn’t find any performance,” he explains.

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“People said ‘you don’t bring any upgrades’… even if you spend money, the car doesn’t go any faster! So why would I spend money? Therefore we made a change in the concept. We said instead of waiting for next year, we tried to do something this year to go already in the direction we want to go for next year.”

A few days earlier, the FIA finally confirmed the series’ worst-kept secret, that it would be advancing Andretti-Cadillac’s bid to join the world championship as its 11th team to Formula 1 Management for consideration. While the news was welcomed by many fans, Steiner has been nothing if not consistent in his opposition to another team being granted a place on the grid.

Having been with Haas since long before the team had produced its first ever car, Steiner feels he has particular authority from which to discuss the difficulties of setting up an entirely new Formula 1 team.

Horner and Steiner were part of Red Bull’s original team
“It’s not easy, to say the least,” he says. “It’s a big challenge.

“Obviously when you want to do it, you’re convinced you can do it. But I think the best example is USF1 – they didn’t make it. Other people made it, but then they weren’t here for long because you need to also have the capability to stay here. It’s not only getting here – getting is almost as difficult as staying here. So I think it’s not easy.

“What I would like to say is that I don’t think it has gotten any easier than when we did it. It actually got a lot more difficult in my opinion. It’s just the intensity of the sport has grown in the last eight years massively. So I think it isn’t easy to do this and it shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Like Haas themselves, whose operation is split between Kannapolis, North Carolina, Banbury in the UK and Maranello at Ferrari’s Italian headquarters, Andretti have proposed a multi-site approach to running their potential team.

“You can do a lot these days, being in different locations,” Steiner says. “Because we are in different locations – we’re in Italy, we are in England and we are in the US – but our base, our race team, is based in England for that reason.

“I don’t really know how Andretti would split it up because I haven’t seen any of their plans, obviously. I think only the FIA has seen them because there was nowhere written how exactly they going to do it. It’s all like ‘we’re going to do it a little bit here, a little bit there,’ but I don’t know. You can do some of the stuff in America – as we do – but the race operation we decided to have in the UK.”

Despite the boom in F1’s popularity in the United States and the regulations revolution that has supposedly levelled the playing field both on the track and in the financial departments, Steiner argues that it would be even harder for a new team to enter the sport given how strong the current 10 competitors are.

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“It’s not that easy. Formula 1 has got very difficult and it’s getting more and more difficult,” he explains. “Actually it’s one of the things, you think ‘will there ever be an 11th F1 team?,’ just of being possible to do it. Because you haven’t got five years to build up to it, because you need to be very wealthy to do that one.”

Andretti got the nod from the FIA, but Steiner isn’t a fan
He points to the example of Porsche’s flirtation with Red Bull, which ended with the Volkswagen Group-owned brand canning its plans to enter F1.

“A big corporate like Volkswagen, they opted to buy a team and when they couldn’t buy a team with one of their other brands, Porsche, they opted not to do it. So I actually think there is an awareness of how difficult this has become now. And going forward, it could be a concern as well.

“But maybe not, because there are 10 solid teams and if somebody’s really interested he just has to wait until something is for sale like everything else. At some stage everything comes and goes. But starting from zero will be very difficult.”

Although Haas are their own manufacturer, their close relationship with power unit suppliers Ferrari is well documented. Haas has generally run almost as many Ferrari-designed parts as the regulations permit. But this brings challenges, as Haas largely has to follow Ferrari’s aerodynamic concept as a result – for better or for worse. Looking into the future, can Steiner foresee his team ever cutting the cord and going entirely their own way?

“I think that’s a little bit too early to say,” he admits. “We need to first get more solid before we do the next step. That’s our plan for the short-term, the next two years, just to get these things right, like this year. If we didn’t find improvement in the car, we should have changed direction earlier.

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“We still need to learn a little bit. Once we get everything solid, under control, then we can think about it. But at the moment we don’t even think about it. We can make improvements with other things we do for the team then changing now or going on our own. Because, again, there are risks involved with it.”

Although Haas’s final position in the standings for 2023 will be decided over the five remaining rounds to come, it’s naturally never too early to look beyond. But with the Austin upgrades set to arrive and stability in the driver line-up, Steiner thinks 2024 could potentially be a pivotal season for the team.

“Yeah, it could be,” he says. “But it’s always the same. You do a new car, you really never know what you’ve got until you go out there and test, because you don’t know what the other ones are doing. Maybe we think we are great, but what if the other ones are great or if we’re still behind them. So it’s one of those things you just find out when you really get there in February.”

Steiner may not have the same natural eloquence in English to express himself as someone like Williams team principal and renowned orator James Vowles, but he more than makes up for it through his frank and honest answers to any question thrown at him.

“That’s who I am,” Steiner insists. “I don’t have to create it.

“If you ask people who know me a long time, I haven’t changed. I never do this just to brush it away. No need for that.”

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In an age when all team principals have to be so mindful of every word that comes out of their mouths both on social media and in the meeting rooms, Steiner’s experience has earned him the freedom to speak a little more openly than if he was one of these new, modern ‘professionals’ figures who Christian Horner was referring to.

Guenther Steiner, Haas, Albert Park, 2023
Steiner would get “bored pretty quick” without F1
But although he could easily pack it all in to pursue sometime different, Steiner seems under no intention of handing Haas over to anyone else any time soon.

“In life I think I’m fortunate because I can do what I want to do,” Steiner says.

“Is it hard, yeah. Could I have an easier life? Yes. But would I be bored pretty quick? Yes. So do this and just live sometimes with it. If I would take it a little bit slower, it would be better because it’s also the excitement, what you get with it. Every day, something new, different and good. I still enjoy it. The day I don’t enjoy it anymore, I know when to leave.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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22 comments on “‘Some days I think ‘why the hell do I do this?’: Steiner on Haas’ future – and Andretti”

  1. Looking back over the last couple of years, 2022 was going to be the big one for Haas. They sacrificed 2021 to work on the “22 car. That season came and went and all we remember is Schumachers crashes. 2023 came and all would be good for Haas because with the Moneygram sponsorship they could finally operate at the budget cap. What do they have to show for that currently? Not much. They again failed to develop throughout the season. Apart from hoping that Ferrari get the fundamentals right for next year which Haas can benefit from, Steiner should really try hard to buy himself some proper technical leadership which can analyse the situation and set direction. Resta might be a good engineer but he might be out of his depth and need support. Instead of having the composite department (at Dallara?) sitting idle for a large part of the year, Haas should really redirect some money towards R&D.

    1. Yeah, they should make way for Andretti who would bring real value to F1.

    2. I remember Schumacher’s crashes mostly because that’s what this guy was talking about 90% of time when he’d open his mouth. It was bad, but not that bad for a first real competitive season in F1 (Sargeant is crashing at least as often as he did, but he’s not showing his pace and will probably never score a point). I wasn’t overly impressed with Mick’s season (but I did see nice progression that promised better things from him), but I don’t think crashing is the first and only thing to remember. Great driver management indeed, reality show style.

  2. This is the one team on the grid that should really not be barking at others or Andretti. Hands down the least value of every team up and down the grid, and that’s even including the FOM double seater team and Brad Pitt’s fake movie team. Being in Ferrari’s pocket has saved them or they’d have been gone years ago, but it doesn’t save them from just being like a running joke filling two slots on the grid without ever really being considered for a point finish.

    Haas is half a team. The other half exists solely in outsourcing and Ferrari employees. And he’s going to question Andretti’s operation… Really, that’s what we’re going with?

    1. Way to rewrite history, 57 points finishes, 11 of which are double. 2021 was the worst and they were clearly making up the numbers, going the pay-drive route, but Steiner has learnt from that.

      Being in Ferrari’s pocket is their business model, one which has been promoted by Formula 1. It’s certainly less of a dubious relationship than Red Bull’s two teams where the parent team benefits far more.

      Really not seeing any questioning or barking at others here, it’s a humble down to earth article, if you even bothered to read it.

  3. The way the current teams are ragging on Andretti every chance they get is really kinda gross. It’s just so transparently exclusionary.

    1. Please explain what ragging there is in this article. “Starting from zero will be very difficult” and “I don’t really know how Andretti would split it up because I haven’t seen any of their plans” seem to be the two most direct quotes from Steiner regarding Andretti.

      I don’t even know why Andretti is mentioned in the title, seems like a bit of comment bait.

      1. @skipgamer I can’t imagine that you haven’t noticed that the paddock’s attitudes towards Andretti have been unremittingly hostile, including Steiner’s, as mentioned explicitly in the article above – couched in seemingly neutral language though they may be. When Steiner says, in response to a question about Andtretti, that best example of the difficulties of setting up a team is USF1, he’s campaigning against the entry. It’s pretty thinly veiled.

  4. Isn’t it entirely logical Haas would oppose any hint of a any new team coming to F1, period? When there is a possibility they’ll themselves go down in prize money? It being an American team with a marketable name makes it even worse for Haas.

    Why the ‘outrage’ about them being against it?

    1. Why the ‘outrage’ about them being against it?

      Not sure others feel outraged, I certainly don’t, but I take a dim view of top level sports competitors who defend their own position by excluding others.

      But of course if you see F1 solely as a business, then it makes a lot of sense to keep the competition out.

    2. Because they don’t deserve to be in F1, based on conditions they impose on others. Actually, they are kinda shaming the whole championship with their business model. If F1 wants to be a sport, teams must NOT have a say in who can participate. That’s not normal, only in the US perhaps. That’s the model that just can’t be popular in Europe, it’s not part of our culture. You can either be an open (but regulated), competitive sport, or americanized franchise system. There’s a reason I don’t care for NBA, even if they’ve got the best players in the world. It’s as soulless as McDonald’s (another franchise). Without new individuals building new teams, there are no new interesting narratives to add to existing ones from the past. Today we like to listen to the stories about Brabham, Williams, McLaren, Minardi, Benetton, Tyrrel, Jordan, Ferrari… Who’s gonna care about Totto Wolff’s story in 20 years? Steiner’s perhaps? Right… That’s going to reflect on the F1’s popularity big time.
      I know we can’t get Minardi back, or good, old Jordan become Jordan again. But I’d never expect to see even big projects be refused, just because some guys are scared of competition and growth. They’re protecting their money? Well, if we lose interest, they will lose it all… And I don’t think that fans should swallow every excuse.

    3. The outrage seems to be from racist American fans that still seem to take umbridge with Mazepin and are excusing their thought-process with mental gymnastics, people who are fairly uninterested in the reality-TV antics of drive to survive and the popularity that garnered Steiner and people who are unhappy that HAAS has the gumption to exist at all (how terrible and sad that is.)

      Most relevantly the fairest argument comes from those who don’t like the hypocrisy and anti-competitive nature of the current teams in asking for bigger anti-dilution payment / questioning the value names like Andretti/Cadillac can bring to F1. It’s arguably just as much, if not more than Audi/Porsche which have been sought after for years.

      That being said, Steiner didn’t use this interview to further that position, when he really could have.

  5. Steiner Hass 7 years in the sport and “We still need to learn a little bit. Once we get everything solid, under control, then we can think about it”
    Hass showing no ambition whatsoever, Time to sell up and leave me thinks.

  6. Uhh.. Gunther…. You ARE the most recent “11th team”. Had the other teams been as vociferous in their opposition to your team’s entry, there would only be 9 teams in the sport right now.

    Bringing up USF1 (or Hispania, Virgin or Lotus/Cosworth) is a bit insulting, as those teams were brought in under a mythical $40 million budget cap that never materialized. They were bait/switched by the FIA.

    Your boss said that the way the European teams spend money is silly, and that one could compete in F1 for far less than they were spending– but Haas has never developed the in-house talent to solve any of the car’s major issues.

    Andretti at least understands if you want to compete, you have to spend money above and beyond the bare minimum.

    1. Yup, every team besides Alpine who could use a partner, has been transparently hypocritical in so many ways in their comments on and efforts to block Andretti.

  7. Why does he do it? Bandit Darville said it years ago:
    “For the money, for the glory, and for the fun. Mostly for the money.”

  8. Hilarious, Haas have barely acknowledged their American roots until another American team came about, they were practically Team Russia a couple of years ago.

    They are also easily the smallest, weakest team on the grid and I wouldn’t be surprised of Andretti’s plan B is to try and buy them out.

    1. Barely acknowledged their American roots? Seriously, what F1 have you been watching.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if HAAS wants Andretti to buy them out, judging by the tone of this article.

  9. Why is andretti so keen on joining? F1 is a big amount of money and the top three have the championship sewn up between them. There is no option to win. Haas at least understand this.

    1. Well, if Haas understand$ thi$ and $till hang$ around there mu$t be $omething attractive. If I only knew what it i$.

    2. Why is andretti so keen on joining? F1 is a big amount of money

      You answered your own question.
      Not even the big teams are in F1 to win for sport – they are all there to win financially.

  10. Tell the truth now, Will and Claire. Was “hell” really the word that Guenther used between “why the” and “do I do this”?

Comments are closed.