Haas “can’t understand how” team finished last again in final season under Steiner

Formula 1

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Gene Haas shed light on his team’s split from long-term team principal Guenther Steiner, indicating his frustration at their slump to last in the championship again.

The team fell to 10th place in 2021 after choosing to focus their efforts on preparing a car for new technical regulations which arrived the following year. They duly rose to eighth in the championship in 2022, but fell back to the bottom of the standings last year.

Yesterday Haas announced Guenther Steiner, who has been their team principal since arriving in F1 eight years ago, had been replaced. Haas said the decision “came down to performance.”

“Here we are in our eighth year, over 160 races – we have never had a podium,” he told the official F1 website. “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,” he added.

“At the end of the day, it’s about performance,” he added. “I have no interest in being 10th anymore.”

The announcement prompted speculation Haas may sell his team to Andretti Global, who were approved for entry into the series by the FIA last year but are yet to agree commercial terms with Formula One Management. However Haas indicated that is not on the cards.

“I didn’t get into F1 to sell,” he said. “I did it because I wanted to race. Guenther had the same perspective. We’re not here to cash out, we want to race and be competitive.”

“We need to do better,” Haas added. “It’s easier to keep sponsors and attract sponsors if we’re a mid-pack team and not a dead last team. That’s my perspective on it. At the same time, if we can run a little faster, we’ll get more FOM money, which will make life a bit easier.

“It’s really all about winning. We have a great team, we have great engines, we have really great drivers. There’s no reason why we are 10th. I can’t understand how we can be with all the equipment and people we have.”

Steiner’s place will be taken by long-serving engineer Ayao Komtasu, while the team will appoint a chief operating officer to handle non-sporting matters.

“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,” said Haas. “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.”

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Keith Collantine
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45 comments on “Haas “can’t understand how” team finished last again in final season under Steiner”

  1. Oof. Well, that doesn’t bode well if he has promoted Ayao because he is technical and Steiner was about people. Being a team principle is about managing the people, not being a technical expert. Horner is not a technical expert. Wolff is not a technical expert. And they have had the most dominant teams in recent years.

    And why did he wait until now to fire Steiner if the reason was due to the team’s performance last season? That should have been decided at the end of the season rather than weeks before the start of the new season.

    1. It worked out really well for Ferrari, as under Binotto they finally won another ch… oh wait.

      Running a big team is a complicated business. It’s indeed about putting the right people in the right place and giving them the right tools and facilities to work with. And even then success isn’t guaranteed. Horner didn’t win anything for almost 10 years, and had it not been for the other team’s overreacting to Honda announcing they were leaving and accepting an F1-unworthy engine equalizing scheme, they might not have won anything at all.

      1. Make fun of Binotto if you want but he was winning more than Vasseur. Haas would be lucky to have him.

        1. We’ll see. This upcoming season is the big test for Vasseur as it’ll be a project he oversaw from the start; he had to work with the leftovers of Binotto’s work in 2023.

          Binotto might be a decent engineer, but as team principal he managed just one more win over four full years than Arrivabene did in just his single last season in 2018. And in the process Binotto also oversaw one of the worst years for Ferrari in the WCC since 1980 with 6th in 2020. I doubt he’ll be back in F1.

          1. Yes, ferrari had pretty competitive cars in 2017 and 2018 under arrivabene, and only in 2022 under binotto, however the management was terrible, they wasted a lot of opportunities in 2022, so I guess that’s why he was gone.

            However the being outdeveloped during the season didn’t only happen during binotto, it happened even in 2017 for example, it’s been a constant with ferrari, that when there’s a championship fight they can’t keep up with red bull and mercedes in development.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            11th January 2024, 23:09

            Arrivabene got an unfair shake…

      2. Horner took over in 2005 with an inherited Jaguar chassis and by 2009 RB would have won the championship if not for the double diffuser…

        But the real point is that Mateschitz was convinced of spending the money to take Red Bull to the top. Haas may not want to spend that kind of money but it also doesn’t sound like he’s willing to shell out for any meaningful hiring or capital investment. Heck, that wizard strategist from their first season or first few seasons (Ruth Boscombe I believe her name was) was allowed to leave to other Ferrari teams/Ferrari itself…

        1. If that’s true, he didn’t work his magic at ferrari!

        2. You’re talking the past vs the present. We are in a cost cap era and Haas beyond facilities can’t just start funding like Red Bull did back then, but on the grid they have the 2nd newest facilities (though they are probably not as state of the art as others). Haas is from 2023 very close to the cost cap due to finally getting some meaningful sponsorship from the outside, so it’s not like they aren’t funding engineers, but of course we aren’t seeing the potential in the first season as they were still behind in developement from previous years.

          Buscombe has been with Sauber/Alfa Romeo since 2017 and it isn’t until now she might be joining Ferrari.

    2. I think Steiner was contracted until the end of 2023, so Gene would probably have still have had to pay for 2023 not to work – and also pay a new replacement TP at the same time….I get the impression money is a little tight at HAAS. Now Steiner’s contract has come to a natural end, its just not been renewed.

    3. @g-funk with the end of the calendar stretching to the end of November and the start of the next year being at the start of March, even deciding at the end of the 2023 season would leave only 14 weeks until the start of next season.

      Secondly, whilst the announcement may have been made now, that does not mean that the decision wasn’t made at an earlier date. Steiner was not actually fired from the team – as others note, what actually happened was that Steiner’s original contract with the team has expired and Haas chose to not sign a new contract for Steiner’s services.

      That would suggest that the team made the decision to replace Steiner some time ago, but the announcement was delayed until his contract expired.

    4. It seems history lessons are wasted on Mr Haas.

  2. Can’t say fairer than that.

  3. Other simply did a better job.

    1. I think his problem is no investments during the season. Even little investments would be beter but no investments is just being last allways.

  4. I was under the impression they buy everything they can from Ferrari, another team, and outsource most of the development of their chassis and aero to Dallara so perhaps they just don’t understand their package well enough. There’s nothing overly wrong with their drivers – Magnussen & Hulkenberg are more than good enough but people orientated… I don’t think Mick Schumacher would have agreed. Still think he’d earned another season.

    Their missteps with Uralkali/Mazepin and Rich Energy are probably more famous than their on track results so something has to change but the whole operation seems to be run as cheaply as possible so I guess Gene’s getting what he’s paying for.

    1. I was also under that impression @rocketpanda. If the parts add up it can work (for a while, see their solid streaks in the past), but the issue remains that they aren’t fully able to understand their own car and improve it because they simply do not have the data and means to really dig into it, that is a fundamental issue that is inherent in the setup.

      I do think they could have done better than Mazepin (but clearly needed the money, which is on Haas himself, since he surely would have been ABLE to fund the team if he wanted to) and Schumacher probably needed a more welcoming and supportive environment than the Steiner (with his rather famous rants) ran team at Haas to develop into something, but the drivers haven’t really been the issue. And really the management will most likely also prove not to be “the issue” with the lack of consistent performance and lack of ability to build on solid results.

    2. They outsource the production to Dallara and get input from them on the design and aero, but they still design the car themselves. What could be the issue is that they have two design teams who isn’t based in the same location. Vehicle dynamics and electronics in the UK and chassis and aero in Italy. One would suspect that the work done in Italy would have a large impact on the work done by the vehicle dynamics team.
      In terms of positioning Haas is most likely one of the last places people want to work on the F1 grid. If you’re italian you would rather work for Ferrari, but it also gives the idea of why the Haas keeps so close to the Ferrari in terms of design as since the cost cap its basically engineers from Ferrari working at Haas. Same goes for the design teams in the UK in Motorsports Valley along side Mercedes, Williams, Alpine and McLaren.

      They are close to the cost cap now, which should improve the situation over time, but they still have to shift away from their design ideals like others had to as Red Bull clearly have shown the way.

  5. The one thing that stands out in the entire Haas campaign is the lack of in-season development. This was true from year one when and true even now. Whether this is due to lack of talented engineers, or lack of capital injection, or both is best known to the team. Starting with a strong car does not guarantee a good finishing position at the end of the year.

    1. As @rocketpanda also hinted at, it’s probably complicating business for Haas that they work with a car they didn’t really design from the ground up. And Dallara mentions on their own site that they only ‘allowed’ (their word) Haas to work with their simulator in 2019, so this relationship is probably not super tight. Certainly not compared to those who do it in house.

  6. Minimal investment + minimal engineering + maximum outsourcing = minimum performances

    I get that the team is just a means for him to advertised his HAAS Automation business hence why the brand features heavily on the sidepods, rear wing and nose of the car but he must realise that if he wants success he has to do more than the bare minimum. The team doesn’t even build the chassis itself.

    Instead of sacking those who actually want to better the team and replace them his his yes men, perhaps he should have listened to them.

    1. His logos are there because no-one else’s are. Because the team’s performance is laughable.

  7. I wonder how much control Steiner had. This team didn’t hire a single “big name” engineer since they arrived in F1. Even Williams and Sauber fetched people from elsewhere. Or Alpha Tauri. What does Haas have? and how much of it is Gene’s responsability?

    It’s annoying because I believe this is the dullest team ever to race in F1. Even those late 80s, early 90s bunch ridiculous teams like Pacific or Forti you sort of felt the passion behind, doing whatever to stay afloat. What is Haas deal? why are they in it for? I don’t think it’s for the love of the sport or to actually win anything. It’s just there…

    I bet he’s waiting for Mario and Michael to email him a good number and that’s it.

    1. Perhaps you dont like the drivers, or the livery, or something.. fine, but for an upstart team on a limited budget they’ve gotten some decent qualifying and race positions over the years, and even a pole once (which is something that the majority of teams fail to achieve). And finally, of all the principals Guenther Steiner was arguably the least dull one, so the opinon seems harsh.

      1. Good for Steiner.

        A team in my view must show willingness to improve, to change the situation. Look at Williams, even in their worst years they were trying hard. What has Haas done? you never hear anything from them, a new exciting hiring on the technical side, a partnership somewhere… the only things we saw was that Moneygram thing.

        Of all the 10 teams, Haas is the only one that makes no sense. I’m not alone in trying to understand why they compete at all… Their ideas starting up were great, they changed the way small teams approach F1 these days, by sourcing most of the car to Ferrari. But they never made that necesary next step to actually compete in the mid/long term. At this point it just feels like Haas is trying to cash out, holding an allocation on the grid because the price goes up no matter what they do, hence why they are opposing to Andretti.

  8. Because they never worked out how to get through a race stint without shredding their rear tyres.

    You are welcome, Haas.

    1. Because they never worked out how to get through a race stint without shredding their rear tyres.

      A “feature” of Ferrari cars for a number of years.
      It’s almost like Haas bought most of the car design/parts from Ferrari.

    2. Now that’s a good and truthful answer.

  9. I get that Gene saw the way things were run in most F1 teams and thought there was a better way, and that’s likely true. However, just because “that’s the way it’s always been done” doesn’t make it wrong. Outsourcing your parts from Ferrari is not a bad idea, but I think outsourcing your design to Dallara, rather than designing in-house, has separated the designers from the drivers and that, coupled with the reluctance to perform continuous chassis development, has limited performance and squandered multiple promising season starts. There’s a reason why Adrien Newey is employed and Red Bull don’t outsource their design. I think it goes back to the adage: good / fast / cheap…pick any two.

    1. When I was doing machine design we used to say ‘you can have it right or you can have it now, but you can’t have it right now’.

    2. They design in-house.

  10. Until he invests more into development I don’t see them getting better anytime soon. Haas seem content to make up the numbers. Maybe they need to team up with a manufacturer before they end up as the new Minardi.

  11. Precursor to the sale of the team.

    Buyer wants to start with their own principal, and doesn’t want the hassle/bad press/unrest of firing the sitting principal so getting rid of the current principal before sale is a part of the deal. Not that uncommon in the business world.

    1. That’s what I expected from Alpine when they sacked everyone, maybe Haas and Alpine are both trying to get a better number from Andretti?

      Maybe Steiner to Alpine??

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        11th January 2024, 23:07

        That would be very interesting! And Abiteboul to Haas!

  12. I don’t know what Gene was expecting. Least ambitious owner but expects black magic. Haas have the resources to be tenth. They rely too much on Ferrari which obviously doesn’t help when Ferrari themselves were 4th best at times this season.

    Either way good luck to Steiner and Resta in whatever they do next.

  13. Haas wants to run a team on the cheap and sees no connection with that and his team being behind all other teams.

  14. There’s no reason why we are 10th. I can’t understand how we can be with all the equipment and people we have.

    He’s kidding right? Someone please tell me he’s kidding. Did I miss something where HAAS doesn’t operate on like half of their nearest competitors and a fifth of the top teams? What people? What equipment? Absolute joke.

    I’m not sitting here saying it’s Guenther’s fault

    When he’s the one change you’re making to the team, yeah, yeah you are. Make changes sure if things aren’t working something needs to change. But someone really needs to call him out on this gaslighting rubbish. How dumb does he think people are?

    1. The irony of these situations – if Gene Haas was running the team himself they’d be in the same spot, nowhere.

      Its not like Gene Haas knows something that Steiner doesn’t. It’s not like Haas himself has the magic answer to improving the teams performance and Steiner didn’t know. Haas, Steiner and Komatsu are all in the same boat when it comes to the results the team produce.

  15. The more I hear about this saga, the more I get the feeling Gene ha(a)s no idea what he‘s doing or what needs to be done to improve his team‘s performance.

    German publication AMuS released an interview with reknown journalist Michael Schmidt who knows Günther very well and had a phone call with him yesterday (he didn’t spill too many beans though). Gene seems to think Haas can still operate low-budget style and be successful when they’re not even scratching the surface of the budget cap. Their direct competitors (Williams, Alpha Tauri, Sauber) are all heavily investing in their infrastructure for the future and/or are intensifying their relations with the works teams they‘re connected to (Mercedes, Red Bull, Audi). They also brought many more upgrades over the last season than Haas. They only brought their big Austin upgrade which also didn’t yield much success. Schmidt believes Günther told Gene they can’t continue like this and suggests Gene dropped Günther because he disagreed with him about the way the team needs to be run (and also didn’t hire free agents like Otmar Szafnauer, Mattia Binotto etc. because they probably would have told him the same). If true (and Schmidt‘s reputation suggests it is), it seems hilarious he didn’t renew Günther‘s contract because of performance when it’s simply a case of him not wanting to spend more money (he undoubtedly ha(a)s with his automation company and his NASCAR team).

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      11th January 2024, 23:07

      @wallbreaker that’s possible, we’ve seen Haas just tumbling down the order. They need to spend money if they want to be successful. I suspect finding money is not an issue as I’m sure that a lot of companies would love to invest in Haas and be partners.

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    11th January 2024, 23:03

    It’s not easy to disrupt F1 – Brawn did it in 2009 but they had a clear technical advantage. In the beginning, Haas did extraordinarily well for a new team and the fact that Williams languished in the bottom saved them from falling to that spot.

    However, they have been very near the bottom for the past 3 seasons with no clear path of getting out of that. Unfortunately performing in F1 requires a sizable investment and in the face of a budget, knowledge so that you can do more with the money that you are allowed to spend.

    If you’re not willing to invest failure is guaranteed in F1. Investment is certainly not a guarantee of success in F1 but the lack of investment is a guarantee of failure.

  17. I get the feeling Gene Haas wants to keep possession of all his money, but wants to be a owner of an F1 team too…

    This is further exacerbated by the relatively ideal start HAAS had.
    When HAAS came to F1, Williams, Sauber, and McLaren, were all stumbling in the dark.

    That is not the case anymore, Gene! You’re paying for beer, and complaining it is not champagne.
    This is not even discussing the elephant in the room, Ferrari, a team that provided their customers severely restricted engines when the rules allowed for such discriminatory treatment of customer teams…

  18. He probably felt Steiner became too much of a joke already with his portrail on that Netflix show, couple with the lack of results.
    Haas is a backmarker, a not very good team with a not very good technical team.

    The drivers again having split opinions on their only upgrade package tells that more than anything. They never seem to be on top of their cars and because of that they underperform.

    This change won’t make any difference, management is not their (only) issue.

  19. Odd to see this man doesn’t know what he is talking about. You’d think he would be more realistic when evaluating all elements that contributed to where they are as a team. Shows some past successes can be attributed in spite of someone and not because of someone. Thought this was a motorsport great.

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