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Life Beyond the Haas ‘Hamster Wheel’: A Steiner Exclusive

“It’s a significant relief for me,” were the initial words uttered by Guenther Steiner when questioned about his current enjoyment of life outside of Haas and Formula 1.

On January 10, he played a pivotal role in the establishment alongside owner Gene Haas.

Steiner was the driving force behind convincing Haas to venture into setting up a Formula 1 team. With the support of the American machine tool company magnate, the VF-16s, piloted by Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, were unveiled at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya for the commencement of pre-season testing on February 22, 2016.

Reflecting on his journey of nurturing the team from its inception over two years, Steiner considers this period as his “most cherished memory.” Despite the subsequent challenges, he acknowledges the highs and lows that ensued.

After dedicating eight years to the grind of Formula 1, Steiner was instructed to depart by Haas, who believed a change in direction was necessary. Ayao Komatsu was appointed as his successor in a bid to pivot the team’s focus towards engineering.

Haas’ decision was communicated to Steiner via a phone call between Christmas and New Year, a decision that Steiner admits he is still grappling with even two months later.

While expressing his lack of comprehension regarding the decision, Steiner acknowledges Haas’ authority as the team owner. He respects Haas’ prerogative to make such choices and acknowledges the transient nature of life and individual autonomy.

Over the course of eight seasons, operating within the constraints of a tight budget imposed by Haas, Steiner steered the team towards moments of respectability, such as securing fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship in 2018, as well as navigating through the challenges of the point-less 2021 campaign.

During the tumultuous period of the pandemic in 2020, Steiner’s determination and resourcefulness played a pivotal role in sustaining the team. Despite facing the brink of closure, he managed to secure the necessary funding to keep the team afloat, albeit at the cost of significant setbacks.

Amidst the team’s struggles, there were notable achievements such as the first double-points finish in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, a team-best fourth and fifth place in Austria the following year, and Kevin Magnussen’s pole position in the 2022 São Paulo GP.

Despite the team often finding itself at the rear of the midfield or towards the back of the grid, Steiner believes he maximized the team’s potential within the given constraints.

Departing from Haas, Steiner received acknowledgment and respect from his peers in the F1 community, a gesture that he values greatly.

Looking ahead, Steiner is relishing his post-F1 life without harboring any regrets. He remains open to potential opportunities in the future, including media-related engagements, while also exploring avenues beyond the confines of a team principal role.

As he contemplates his next steps, Steiner remains grounded, appreciating the chance to reassess his aspirations and explore the diverse opportunities that lie ahead.