Ralf Schumacher names preferred Haas hire following Guenther Steiner axing

Thomas Maher
Guenther Steiner, Mattia Binotto, and Otmar Szafnauer have all lost their F1 team boss roles in the last 12 months.

Ralf Schumacher believes Otmar Szafnauer, not Mattia Binotto, would be the better candidate for Haas for their vacant COO role.

Ralf Schumacher and Guenther Steiner may not have been the best of friends, but the former F1 driver says he’s sad to see a “character” depart the sport.

As the uncle of Mick Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher ended up engaging in a media war-of-words with Haas team boss Guenther Steiner during the 2022 season as the young German driver fought to retain his seat with the American team.

Haas eventually opted against continuing with Schumacher, who ended up without a race seat, but Ralf isn’t celebrating the ousting of Steiner from his role as Haas team boss after owner Gene Haas chose to release him ahead of 2024.

Ralf Schumacher: It’s a shame to see a character leaving

Speaking on the Formula1.de YouTube channel, Schumacher shared his thoughts on the parting of the ways between Steiner and Haas.

Admitting that he and Steiner weren’t best friends, Schumacher said of the Italian: “He was a brand. It’s a shame because another character type from Formula 1 is leaving. But perhaps it was also time to fill the position with a new one. Only time will tell.”

With Steiner out, Haas turned to their director of engineering Ayao Komatsu to promote him to team boss, but the team intends on hiring a chief operating officer to bolster their management structure.

As of last week, Haas is actively seeking this candidate, which has outlined a requirement for their prospective hires to have at least 10 years in a Formula 1 management position with demonstrable leadership.

Several recent team bosses are currently available, including former Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer and former Ferrari leader Mattia Binotto.

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Why Otmar Szafnauer, not Mattia Binotto, would be the better candidate for Haas

With Binotto having led the Scuderia and overseen the transition to the ground-effect rules that resulted in a very capable car at the start of 2022, his long-standing friendship with Steiner and existing relationship with Haas through Ferrari’s technical partnership makes him a logical candidate for the Haas COO role.

If both were to apply for the vacancy at Haas, Schumacher believes it’s Szafnauer, not Binotto, who would make for the better hire.

“Otmar is someone who is well-known in Formula 1 and who also has expertise. One thing is technical expertise,” he said.

“But the other thing is to go out and look for good minds, sometimes at universities.

“Having this foresight and generating new people to take the team forward is a skill that I trust Otmar to have. I can’t imagine Mattia Binotto doing that. He’s also more associated with Audi. But I don’t quite see how that fits in with Andreas Seidl. I’m curious about that.”

Szafnauer’s F1 experience includes smaller teams like BAR and Force India/Racing Point, and thus is very used to having to make the best of lesser-resourced teams.

As a result, Schumacher says, Szafnauer has the edge over Binotto as he “knows small structures and can get a lot out of them. That is also crucial. What’s the point of getting someone who previously had 1,000 people under him? He’ll find it difficult at first.”

Haas has never raced in F1 without Steiner in charge, with Schumacher pointing out that the celebrity side he carved out over the years proved beneficial in terms of visibility and sponsorship.

“He brought attention to the team and the sponsors. That was good,” he said.

“But I think Gene Haas was too embarrassed to always drive round the back.”

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