Explained: Why Haas ignored three big ‘outsiders’ including Mattia Binotto for top job

Thomas Maher
Mattia Binotto at the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.

Mattia Binotto is a free agent, but Gene Haas opted against hiring him, and others, and promoted from within.

Gene Haas has explained why he didn’t pick up the phone with Mattia Binotto or Otmar Szafnauer after parting ways with Guenther Steiner.

With Haas and long-time F1 team boss Steiner opting to split up ahead of the 2024 F1 season, the question of who would be best placed to lead the American team forward was one that faced team owner Gene Haas.

Easily available candidates included former Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto, who has been a free agent since parting with the Scuderia 12 months ago, former Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer after his split with Enstone during the summer, and former Williams boss Jost Capito.

Gene Haas explains logic behind decision to promote internally

Instead of turning to these seasoned team leaders, Haas opted to promote from within and has given the team boss role to Ayao Komatsu – the long-term senior engineer who last year was the team’s director of engineering.

Haas said that he preferred to take this option rather than try an external hire, regardless of their pedigree.

“I’ve been running Haas Automation for over 40 years now,” he told the official Formula 1 website.

“Bringing people in from the outside, it takes them time to learn – six months to a year – and, a lot of time, you don’t even like them. It’s better to take people you know, and even if they are not the perfect fit, at least you know what you’re going to get.

“That’s really worked out pretty well for us here at Haas Automation, so I’m really applying a lot of the building blocks that were here to the Formula 1 team.

“I really like to have people that I know, who understand the day-to-day operations, understand the people, [rather] than bringing in a stranger who is going to stir everything up and create a mess.”

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Haas has already outlined an intention to hire a European-based chief operating officer, with the successful candidate and Komatsu both set to report to Haas Automation Vice President Bob Murray and Mr Haas himself.

“We looked from within, at who had the most experience,” the American explained of the decision to promote Komatsu.

“Ayao has been with the team since day one, he knows the ins and outs of it. My biggest concern is when we go to Bahrain, we need to show up with a car that is ready to go. Maybe having more of a managerial-type and engineering approach, we’ll see if that has benefits.

“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. 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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