Guenther Steiner finally had the chance to address his departure from Haas when he appeared on stage at Autosport International on Saturday.
Having been removed as Haas F1 team boss earlier this week, Guenther Steiner was able to clear up the nature of his departure and his thoughts on his former team when he appeared on stage at the motorsport event in Birmingham in the UK.
With Steiner having revealed all in his first public appearance of 2024, here are the main takeaways from his interview.
How was Guenther Steiner told he’d lost his job with Haas?
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper
With only unconfirmed speculation swirling about the nature of Steiner’s split with Haas, the Italian confirmed he had received a phone call from Gene Haas in between Christmas and the new year to tell him that he would not be kept on for 2024.
“It was a phone call, he called me and said that he does not want to extend the contract which was up at the end of the season and that was it,” Steiner said.
When asked if it came as a surprise to him, Steiner said: “I don’t know if it was a surprise, it’s always a surprise but then in the end he owns the team, he can do what he wants – it’s his decision.”
As for whether he had been able to say goodbye to the staff at the factory, Steiner confirmed he had not been given that opportunity – but took the chance to do it via the interview.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to thank some people when I left Haas,” he said.
“I just want to thank all the team members I couldn’t say goodbye to when I went. So I’ll do it this way. And I would also like to thank all the fans who supported us during my time there. That’s fantastic – thank you to everyone for the support I have received and still get.
“It hurts [not being able to say goodbye], but they all know me and know that I appreciate what they have done. It is always best to tell them directly. It would be nice to say, ‘Hey guys, thank you for what you did for the team.'”
Guenther Steiner identifies critical difference between Haas and other teams
With Steiner no longer representing the best interests of the American team, he was diplomatically willing to point out where he feels weaknesses still exist within the Haas F1 team.
With Haas remaining unique in their approach to F1 in terms of buying as many components as possible – including their chassis – Steiner said he doesn’t know whether Haas have any plans to change that approach any time soon.
“I don’t know if it changes or not,” he said when asked about whether Haas has made any plans to change their approach in light of their ongoing lack of competitiveness.
“I think the model we had in Formula 1, 10 years ago, when we started – F1 has changed a lot. F1 changed a lot after the COVID period – how much it grew, how much bigger it got, how much different it got with the budget cap, and how to use the budget cap to get ideas and how to do things.”
Then, Steiner revealed where he feels the biggest difference is between Haas and the other teams – pointing to how the other nine have invested heavily in their infrastructure.
“If you look at all the other teams, they are all gearing up,” he said.
“They are not gearing up now – they started to gear up two, three years ago, last year. So everybody is getting stronger, investing a lot in the future, because Formula 1 is on a very good path where it’s going at the moment.
“That is what is needed to do to stay competitive.
“So I don’t know Gene Haas’ plans for the future. He didn’t share them with me. He doesn’t have to, by the way – I want to make that clear as well, you know, I’m actually not really interested in it anymore!” he laughed.
“But, on the other side, I see where other people are going and the model we started with in the beginning, I think it was a very good model. But, maybe, it’s not time-relevant anymore. But who am I to say that?”
Steiner said he believes other teams identified the need to spend outside of the budget cap areas in order to make progress.
“You need to invest outside of the cost cap to get the best out of the operational cost cap,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s very complex, but you need to think about really how to operate with the cost cap money – how can you get the most out of it to make the car go quicker?
“That is normally because you invest in something to do that, and that needs to be done. I think a lot of people picked up on that one years ago and started to invest in how to be efficient by spending money on capital investment, and then getting operational to be more efficient.”
What does Guenther Steiner’s immediate future hold?
While Haas and new team boss Ayao Komatsu gear up for F1 2024, what does Steiner’s own future look like?
After all, there’s no obvious way back into a position of power in Formula 1 – if he even wants to do that in the foreseeable.
“I don’t know if Formula 1 wants me!” he joked when asked about whether he wants to remain in the sport.
“Now at the moment, I’m very chilled out about the situation – I’m not in a hurry. I know a lot of people, I’ve got a lot of friends and for me just hanging around for a year doing the odd job, that does it for me.
“If something interesting comes along that challenges me, yes, but just staying in Formula 1 just to do a job, maybe is not what I want to do.
“I like to be with people but it needs to be something where I can see a future in it. I don’t just want to go there and then move on to the next thing. I want to do something where I can achieve something and you try to get somewhere and then I will do it.”
For now, Steiner’s plans are to go home to the United States and spend time with his family – but he indicated he’d be up for appearing on TV when he’s at a few races in 2024. Might he be Sky F1’s new mystery pundit?
“As I said, at the moment, I just want to chill out,” he said.
“It was 10 tough years behind me. I’m still good. I’ve got plenty of stuff to do and clean up at home – just ask my wife!
“It’s good to stay with the family. My daughter is 14 years old, so she’s quite demanding. She’s got an opinion on everything. I try to manage that one nowadays, which seems to be more difficult than an F1 team at the moment.
“So I’m doing this for a few months. But I will be around at some races, people will see me on TV maybe!”
Guenther Steiner pays tribute to Haas staff and addresses Gene Haas jibe
With Steiner and the team he very much the driving force behind going their separate ways, both Haas drivers used their personal social media platforms to wish their former boss the best of luck for his future.
“It was very nice of them to do this – obviously, I would never ask for anything,” Steiner said about the gestures from Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.
“It’s not only the drivers who you don’t always see eye to eye with – there’s more than the two drivers than don’t always agree with me.
“That’s part of being me, but it was very cool. The two guys – I’ve got a very good relationship with them. When they posted that, it was nice, you know?”
Gene Haas, speaking in his own extensive interview after the confirmation of Steiner’s axing, had mentioned that he had found the performance of his team “embarrassing” after using equipment from Ferrari throughout their race cars.
Does Steiner take umbrage with Haas’ using of such a harsh word when judging the team’s performance?
“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.”
Asked if he had any advice to his former employers and the staff he leaves behind, he added: “I would say to the team ‘Just keep on working.’ There’s a lot of good people there.
“Just keep your head down and keep on digging. You will get there.”