Guenther Steiner says trying to keep Haas F1 going through the pandemic was a more difficult task than initially setting up the team.
Haas, the newest constructor on the grid, have fallen on difficult times competitively in the last couple of years having slid to the back of the pack from what had been a solid midfield status.
They cannot decline much further, but hope to reverse their fortunes next year having put their entire development focus on the all-new cars required for 2022 rather than on this season’s challenger.
But according to Steiner, the Haas team principal, it is a wonder the American-owned outfit are still competing at all, given the effects of the pandemic and how it impacted Formula 1 with the enforced shutdown and a delayed start to the 2020 campaign that comprised 17 races rather than the intended 23.
“It hit at the complete wrong time for us,” Steiner told Insider.com. “Our car wasn’t good, then COVID hit and the commercial agreement we had expired. It was a challenge keeping the team going and that’s the biggest challenge up to now.
“The challenge last year was bigger than starting the team up in my opinion because there is something there, you want to keep it going but you need to make a case so the owner keeps it going.
“That was the biggest challenge in Haas’ history.”
Steiner has also opened up on his race-day role, after the recent comments from Red Bull’s Christian Horner comparing his own position on the pit wall with that of his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff. Horner said Wolff stays in the garage sitting “next to the press guy”.
At Haas, Steiner delegates much of the race-day strategy planning to the team’s chief race engineer, Ayao Komatsu, taking a “bigger picture” approach for himself.
“I wouldn’t say I’m hands-on but I’m also not hands-off,” said the Italian. “With Ayao, I’ve got a very good relationship. We work well together. I don’t interfere.
“They get in their race mode whereas I can see the bigger picture. I understand racing pretty well and I like to do it, but I know someone needs to take the decisions and it shouldn’t be me.
“He sometimes asks me my opinion, I sometimes tell him things which I see out on the race track and just make sure he sees them, but I’m not making the calls.
“I just try to support as best as I can and if I’m needed, I’m there to help. Sometimes I’m needed because they trust me pretty well.
“I’m just there to support them. That’s my role, but I’m quite involved mentally in that. I’m not just watching the race as a spectator.”
Steiner: "Biggest challenge in Haas' history"
Guenther Steiner claims that this has been Haas' biggest challenge.