Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said Guenther Steiner became a “victim of his popularity”, having heard the former Haas boss was trying to turn said popularity into team ownership.
Haas recently dropped the bombshell announcement that Steiner had left the team principal role, with long-serving trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu announced as their new team boss.
Steiner admitted that the decision came as a great surprise to him too, telling Sky Sports F1 that while “nobody was happy with the results in 2023” as Haas returned to the foot of the Constructors’ Championship standings, “I didn’t see this coming”.
Guenther Steiner attempts to buy into Haas backfire?
Steiner, despite Haas being a team still without an F1 podium, had become one of the most popular team bosses on the grid thanks to Netflix’s hit F1 docuseries Drive to Survive, viewers connecting with his non-nonsense yet entertaining personality.
However, Marko has told F1-Insider.com that he heard Steiner was trying to cash in on his new-found fame by buying into the team, with all this Netflix-inspired popularity not sitting well with team owner Gene Haas.
“Let’s put it this way: anyone who becomes too popular through a documentary like Netflix tends to take off,” said Marko. “But if you fly too high too fast, you also crash faster.
“I’ve only heard that he wanted to convert his popularity into shares in the team. And that no longer appealed to owner Gene Haas.
“It is also the case in our sport that the team always takes precedence over the individual. Steiner became a victim of his popularity.”
Franz Tost, formerly the team principal of Red Bull’s second team and potential consultant to the Red Bull outfits going forward, was also asked for his take on the Steiner situation.
He preferred to stay away from the added speculation, but on a results basis, felt Steiner’s exit will have a lot to do with their unsuccessful B-Spec VF-23 introduced at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, which failed to deliver any notable performance gain as they set off down a different concept route.
“I got on very well with Guenther, both personally and professionally,” said Tost. “He was an expert on our sport. That’s all I want to say.
“The pressure in Formula 1 is brutal. If a further development of a car doesn’t work in the middle of the season, people are looking for someone to blame.”
With just 12 points scored in 2023, Haas will be hoping for a far-improved F1 2024 campaign, having now finished bottom of the standings in two of the past three campaigns.