Guenther Steiner, Haas, Yas Marina, 2023

Steiner leaves Haas with immediate effect, Komatsu becomes team principal

Formula 1

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Guenther Steiner will not lead Haas into their ninth season as team principal following his immediate departure from the US-owned outfit.

Haas fell to last place in the constructors championship for the second time in three years during 2023. Owner Gene Haas said today it was clear their performance must improve.

Ayao Komatsu, who like Steiner has been with the team since its first season, has been promoted from director of engineering to team principal. Haas said this will put a greater focus on their engineering operation.

Following Steiner’s departure, the team will also appoint a new chief operating officer to oversee the non-competitive side of the its activities.

“Moving forward as an organisation it was clear we need to improve our on-track performances,” said Haas. “In appointing Ayao Komatsu as team principal we fundamentally have engineering at the heart of our management.”

Komatsu, 47, arrived in F1 with British American Racing and worked at Renault before joining Haas. Still F1’s newest team, Haas impressed by scoring points on its debut in 2016 and went on to finish that season eighth in the standings. It achieved a best result of fifth in 2018 but slumped to ninth the following season.

Since then it has only finished as high as eighth on one occasion. That came in 2022, when the team capitalised on a major change in the technical regulations and scored a fifth place finish in the opening race. But it failed to progress from there and even with a more experienced driver line-up in 2023 ended the season last.

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“We have had some successes, but we need to be consistent in delivering results that help us reach our wider goals as an organisation,” stated team founder Gene Haas. “We need to be efficient with the resources we have but improving our design and engineering capability is key to our success as a team.

Ayao Komatsu, Haas, 2023
Komatsu has taken over as team principal at Haas
“I’m looking forward to working with Ayao and fundamentally ensuring that we maximise our potential – this truly reflects my desire to compete properly in Formula 1.”

Komatsu said he was “naturally very excited” to take on the role of team principal for the first time.

“Having been with the team since its track debut back in 2016 I’m obviously passionately invested in its success in Formula 1,” he said. “I’m looking forward to leading our program and the various competitive operations internally to ensure we can build a structure that produces improved on-track performances.

“We are a performance-based business. We obviously haven’t been competitive enough recently which has been a source of frustration for us all.

“We have amazing support from Gene and our various partners, and we want to mirror their enthusiasm with an improved on-track product. We have a great team of people across Kannapolis, Banbury and Maranello and together I know we can achieve the kind of results we’re capable of.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Steiner leaves Haas with immediate effect, Komatsu becomes team principal”

  1. Not too surprised. Haas’ constant inability to fix developmental issues throughout an entire season has been a major red flag for too long. It’s hard to figure out what exactly can be done, but I’ve never liked Steiner’s standoff-ish behaviour, even if we only see a tiny fraction of his persona.

    Don’t know how well Komatsu will find the change from being a engineer to a team principal, though. It’s worth a shot, but I kind of wish they had brought in an outside person to instigate more change.

    1. @ciaran “Haas’ constant inability to fix developmental issues throughout an entire season has been a major red flag for too long…”

      Wondering about this too. Making the engineer to team principal to fix all the things that must be fixed to make their racing better. Hoping for the best.

      1. I have totally unproven thoughts that Haas’ development issues are down to managerial structure rather than a lack of outright talent or funding. They were able to develop a good car at the start of 2022 by sacrificing 2021, so the ability is there. But that season’s slide, as well as huge developmental obstacles in 2019 and 2023, all point to hindrances within the team to solve problems.

        Here’s to hoping Komatsu has answers to those!

        1. If we read between the lines it’s mostly the funding ….

        2. I have totally unproven thoughts that Haas’ development issues are down to managerial structure rather than a lack of outright talent or funding.

          You might be right.
          But why then promote the guy who was operationally responsible for the engineering part. I doubt that Komatsu always had the right ideas and priorities, but was then stopped by Steiner.
          And it doesn’t seem that Steiner decided to spend money on other items. Quite the contrary based on examples like shrinking the pit gantry to free up funds.

    2. Some are saying time to sell or move over for Andretti GM….

  2. How will Drive to Survive survive without Guenther?

    1. It’ll be drivel

      1. Drivel to survivel

        1. I actually LOLd.

      2. As if it hasn’t been since the start?

        1. “Look everyone! I don’t like wildly popular thing that has transformed the profile of F1 around the world!”

      3. It’ll be drivel

        Well, yes, but what will have changed?

    2. Lewisham Milton
      10th January 2024, 17:43

      Maybe it will survive without the rest of F1, and just follow Guenther around.

      1. Lol
        There probably could be some kind of spin-off on Netflix :-)
        Also, I could see him comment further US races. Nascar, etc..

    3. Dry to Survive

  3. At last…

    Seriously doubt Haas will last more than 2 years from now on. There’s just nothing in there for them and there are a loooooot of people wanting to buy in into F1.

    1. Just read this now after posting a similar comment above. Sometimes in F1 a certain ideology gathers momentum and becomes a reality.
      Ron Dennis often referred to Eddie Jordan as the village idiot. I often thought of this when I heard Steiner speak and the way he behaved on DTS. A bit harsh maybe given the resources he had available. Its hard to navigate a ship when you’re mostly below deck plugging holes in the hull to keep it afloat.

  4. The headline came as a total shock. I didn’t see his sudden departure coming at all.

    1. Agreed, expected a moment where the team would be sold.. but this came as a surprise.

  5. Not very surprised and a bad omen for the team. Like him or not Gunther did give the team some much needed character – what remains is a team lacking any ambition or clear direction – other than just being in F1 for the sake of it.

  6. Autosport international is now suddenly 100% more interesting!

  7. I hope he stays around in F1. Either as a F1 commentator, or as a Formula One race director… now, THAT would be golden!

  8. Remember when in 2016 Brundle and Sky were going on about how Haas approach to F1 in getting an outside party to design the chassis with a close relationship to another team that gives them as many of the additional bits as possible should be the blueprint for all future F1 teams.

    How’s that worked out for them?

    1. The blueprint for new F1 teams, with ambitions to progress from being a new team to an established team in their own right. Haas never made that second leap. Not enough investment or support. I get the feeling Gene Haas thinks it’ll all work itself out.

    2. It worked out quite well for them at first, because it allowed them to have a car in their first year that was far better than it would have been had it been designed in-house and not largely a Ferrari copy. Subsequent cars haven’t really improved because they had to comply with the regulations on building the cars themselves. Even if they shipped it out to Dallara to build the tub.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    10th January 2024, 18:57

    It’s a tough one for sure. Is it the right decision? No one knows but the team has not been able to deliver good results under his stewardship. I do hope he sticks around in some fashion. He’s a colorful character who does not hold back.

    Like others said, there is pressure to sell and they need to see where they can go.

  10. Not many people were expecting this.

    1. Steiner leaving should not have been a surprise.
      Komatsu stepping in was somewhat unexpected for me.

  11. How many times has this man been honest and said what he thinks?
    F1 does not want that.
    F1 wants drones.

    Farewell to a genuine personality who had the nuts to be himself.

    1. There’s verstappen who’s like that too, I bet he’s not leaving anytime soon!

      1. …well, define soon

  12. While I’m not all that surprised he was fired, the timing is very odd. Why do it so close to the beginning of the new season? Surely they performed a debriefing of the season right after the last race and if Gene wasn’t happy with Steiner’s performance, why didn’t he let him go then and allow time to find a replacement for Ayao?

    1. Perhaps too much f’ing bad setbacks during the development of the new car and Gene was just f’ing fed up.

  13. Following Steiner’s departure, the team will also appoint a new chief operating officer to oversee the non-competitive side of the its activities.

    …. can you be more specific?

    1. can you be more specific?

      True, given the low standing in the WCC I think you have to label all their activities as non-competitive.

      There’s also the comments in the media elsewhere about a shift to the technical side for the leadership roles and it being a good thing.
      Speaking as someone from a technical background and therefore biased to that side, I have to ask the question:
      If having a technical bias is good for a leader, how many spanners have Horner, Wolff and Vasseur wielded recently?

    2. Very good, didn’t realise they had a competitive side…

      Can’t help thinking that, fittingly for a customer team, they’re making the same mistake as Ferrari a couple of years later.

  14. ill miss Guenther.
    he was a lot of fun and told it like it was.
    he was a manager not THE engineer.
    i too suspect the team will be sold at some point.
    remember the comments made by Williams that kind of said that the cost cap was ok for the teams that already had all their software and hardware in place before the cost cap. like Mercedes. but the small teams who had not built their infrastructure were now restricted in doing so by the cost caps.
    i suspect hass falls into that and maybe what is holding back their development.
    i use a lot of hass machines in my production so some love here.
    and some love for their being a USA team

    1. I’ve always thought actually working for Steiner would be a horrible experience. Who’d like a boss like that?

      I think it’ll be very positive for the team and I would like to see an American team performing well.

      Good point about the technical development and the cost cap.

  15. Good riddance, I always thought he was wrong to fire mick schumacher, and not because he’s the son of michael, just because he’s no worse than other drivers who are currently in f1 and had caught up with magnussen by late season, points would’ve come this year, and it’s not like magnussen shined in points compared to hulkenberg either.

    Best f1 news I’ve seen in a long time, don’t care about the replacement coming from inside vs outside the team, as long as he’s gone, also with his comments to add value to f1 by being in last place!

    1. Not the first time reality eludes you in terms of the subject Schumacher. At the very least get your facts straight since we have been over them before.

    2. Agree. I enjoyed watching Schumacher and he was fun. Magnusson is very ordinary.

  16. A ship without a captain! The most interesting part of this story is whatever comes next.

  17. Maybe Steiner finally told Gene where to go running a team on a shoestring and expecting results. I doubt Haas are near the budget cap on spending and that has strangled possibilities for the team. The sooner they got bought by someone willing to give it a decent effort the better. Maybe Ferrari could do with some good honest Steiner feedback in their garage.

  18. I would have understood this move if they had perhaps announced the appointment of somebody from a more successful team (so literally any other team!), but how does promoting somebody from within who has been with Haas from the start fix the issues they are having? It’s hard to see how Komatsu is not part of the problem, and it seems symptomatic of the total lack of ambition that the team have. They rehire former drivers and are now promoting people who were part of the decline. You have to ask what the purpose is of their being in F1 at all.

  19. I hope Komatsu can lift the team to new heights.

    1. The team shouldn’t leave all the heavy lifting to him.

      1. We’ll have to see what capacity he has for lifting.

  20. He’d better get a definitive ruling before the season begins on whether cost of a kotatsu (or several) should be included in catering costs budget cap or a capex item.

  21. Wow, this is the first time I’ve been truly shocked by some F1 news in a long time. It makes sense, of course. A seismic change was needed. But Haas stuck with Steiner for so long that I assumed Gene was not placing the blame at Guenther’s feet, however weird that seemed.

    Of course, it would be a big loss to the F1 circus if Steiner’s personality is lost. I hope he finds a role elsewhere. Perhaps with Andretti if they get in?

  22. Haas was destined to fail from the start… their approach of taking all possible parts from Ferrari and then getting another 3rd party to actually design the car, was the most flawed approach to racing I’ve ever seen. They have built zero competencies in design and engineering for the Haas F1 team, and the only value they have is their place on the grid.

    I don’t know whether Gene or Gunther was responsible for this disastrous strategy. Honestly, both Gene and Gunther don’t have what it takes to belong in F1, so I think Gunther getting laid off is just a step before Gene calls it quits in F1 as well.

    Gunther will be missed for the comic relief he provided in the paddock and on Netflix, but from a sporting perspective, he’s been an absolute disaster of a team prinicpal… and I think it was about time he moves on.

    1. Blah blah BS

      How is manufacturing your own parts at 5x the price and inferior quality due to new construction processes and inexperienced staff a better model … never mind the time, human and capital investment in setting up the facilities.

      Clearly the whole concept is too difficult for you to grasp.

      1. Clearly you don’t understand what an F1 team is supposed to do. It’s supposed to build its own capabilities… not borrow its core competencies. While listed parts might make sense in the short run… having your design outsourced to another unit altogether makes zero sense.

        You’re understanding of this sport and is amateurish.

  23. Very positive for Haas; probably won’t see too much change this year but bodes well for their future.

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