Guenther Steiner has explained how he was completely unaware that Gene Haas was planning to cut him free ahead of the 2024 F1 season.
Steiner was released from his role as team boss of the Haas F1 team ahead of 2024, with team owner Gene Haas electing not to continue with the Italian in charge after a dismal 2023 season.
It marked the end of a particularly long relationship, with Steiner having been the very public face of Haas’ enterprise for almost a decade since the team’s arrival into the F1 world.
Guenther Steiner: I knew my contract renewal was coming up
With Steiner having had to handle the news of his departure going public without an outlet to give his side of the story, the Italian chose to do so by keeping his scheduled appointment at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham.
Also in attendance was a Haas press officer, who watched on as Steiner spoke on the main stage.
While Steiner revealed there had been a fundamental disagreement about how best to take the team forward into the future, he was diplomatic about the nature of his release and simply stated that he felt infrastructure investment was an area he’d identified the other nine teams had concentrated their efforts.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after his on-stage appearance, Steiner went into more detail about how his departure from Haas had come about.
“Obviously, nobody was happy with the results in 2023 but I didn’t see this coming,” he said.
“I knew that the renewal of my contract was coming up and then when a renewal is coming up it can be that it’s not getting renewed.”
Steiner had been told of the decision for the two sides to part ways via a phone call from Haas: “I was in Italy on my Christmas break and he called me up between Christmas and New Year.”
Did fame play a part in Guenther Steiner axing decision?
Steiner became a celebrity in his own right in recent years, due to his personality coming across so strongly in the Netflix show Drive to Survive. It spawned a Steiner book on the 2022 F1 season, called Surviving to Drive, and a huge fandom usually reserved for the on-track talent.
But that fame came with the price of additional scrutiny that the midfield team wouldn’t have courted with a more anonymous team boss, and Steiner admitted that that fame could have played a role in Haas’ decision.
“Not really, but thinking back now, it could have,” he said when asked by Sky’s Craig Slater about the possibility.
“But in the end that celebrity gave the team a lot of exposure, brought in very good sponsors like MoneyGram because they liked that because they could use that [profile].
“There are always positives and negatives to any deal so maybe there were some positives and somebody brought up the negatives.
“These are things you cannot always plan for because I was not out there trying to look for celebrity. It happened to me and only the people who know me know that, so I’m ok with that.
“I didn’t get up in the morning to be a celebrity. I get up in the morning to work. But I think it worked a lot in favour of the team because, without that, maybe it would have been closed before.”
As for his request for more spending on infrastructure, Steiner was asked whether this request was what led to the split.
“I would say what is a fair assessment is when you look at the other teams where they are going since the budget cap came into place, a lot of teams – all of the teams – invested in the infrastructure,” he said.
“Therefore it is not spending money, it is investing to use the budget cap, the operational budget cap, as best as possible that you can put money in to make the car go quickly. Some people started straight away in 2020, 2021. Some people started last year, but everybody is doing it.
“I think that was one of the things. I look at the other ones and I suggest what needs and should be done.
“Obviously, I think without me in 2020, [Haas] wouldn’t have been around anymore. But Gene Haas owns the team so in the end he’s free to do what he wants.
“I cannot accuse him of anything. I can accuse him but it doesn’t do anything because he can make his decisions, he is free to decide.
“I am actually fine, my life will continue. I will have fun, I will stay around. Something will pop up. I’m doing good.
“In the end, a good period in my life came to an end, but maybe an even better one starts.”