New Haas team boss Ayao Komatsu is adamant that team owner Gene Haas’ declaration the team’s performances have been “embarrassing” are “motivating” as it proves the American is all in.
Last on the log last season after putting their hopes on a B-spec VF-23 that failed to take the team forward, Haas announced Guenther Steiner had been relieved of his team boss duties.
Although it was billed as a decision not to extend the Italian’s contract with Haas wanting to take a more technical route, it came as a surprise to Steiner who wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to the people at the factory.
New team boss agrees results have been ‘really embarrassing’
But as more was said in the wake of the shock announcement, team owner Haas spoke of his embarrassment over his F1 team’s performances and their failure to capitalise on their technical collaboration with Ferrari.
“I’m embarrassed that we haven’t been able to do better with it,” said the American, who added: “When you’re at the track and you’re humiliated every weekend, I’m going to stop taking that one anymore.”
Steiner’s exit immediately raised questions about whether the team owner could call time on his Formula 1 endeavour, potentially paving the way for his compatriot Michael Andretti to buy the team.
Haas was quick to refute that, adamant the team was not for sale, he’s just done with “being 10th anymore”.
New team boss Komatsu sees the 71-year-old’s harsh assessment of the F1 team as encouragement, not criticism.
“Gene at the moment, he wants to get off the back of the grid,” Komatsu said. “You saw and heard how unhappy Gene was. I mean, of course, who’s going to be happy competing in last place?
“It is embarrassing. It really is embarrassing.
“So I think it’s positive that Gene’s unhappy where we are. If the people in the team think, ‘Okay, we are last, and then we’re not sure where we’re going because Gene doesn’t say anything’ then [they will think], is Gene happy just making up numbers being P10? That’s clearly not the case.
“It’s actually motivating for everyone here. Okay, Gene is serious, he wants to improve the team. So let’s do it together.”
However, Steiner, speaking to the media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper for the first time after news of his axing, wasn’t impressed with Haas’ comments.
“If he feels like this, that’s his feeling and he can say it,” he said. “Obviously, nobody in the team is proud to be 10th. We didn’t have a good season in ’23, we all know that.
“But in my opinion, when you’re down it’s not how you get down [but] how you get up again.
“That’s just my life motto and that is what you have to think about: to not be embarrassed about anything, just keep on going and make it better.”
Haas will continue with Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg for a second season in 2024.