Guenther Steiner has left his position as team principal of Haas after 10 years in charge, the Formula One team announced Wednesday.
Steiner’s shock departure, just six weeks before the start of the new F1 season, comes after it was mutually agreed with the team owner, Gene Haas, not to renew his contract.
Steiner’s position will be taken by Ayao Komatsu, who is promoted from his role as director of engineering.
The decision is part of a push from Haas to have a more technical-focused team principal to end its recent lack of form after it slumped to last place in the championship in 2023.
A big change in direction
Steiner has been the leader and the face of the Haas F1 team even before it joined the F1 grid in 2016, becoming team principal two years earlier. From his first conversation with Haas, a NASCAR team co-owner, Steiner was instrumental in getting its entry approved and setting up the team, signing established drivers for a then-nascent operation and agreeing to a close technical partnership with Ferrari.
Through the Netflix series “Drive to Survive,” Steiner has become one of the best-known F1 paddock figures due to his forthright nature and colorful phrases that created memes, graced team merchandise and become part of F1’s lexicon.
But through talks in the weeks leading up to the end of the year, it emerged that Steiner and Haas had different visions for the future of the team, prompting the mutual parting of ways to be decided just after Christmas.
The team has not finished outside the bottom three of the championship since 2018, and finished last two of the past three seasons. Even with two experienced drivers in Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg, the team only recorded four points finishes through last year, never finishing a race any higher than seventh as both struggled with an unpredictable, challenging car.
Haas said in the statement that the team needed to be “consistent in delivering results” and that “improving our design and engineering capability is key to our success as a team.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Ayao and fundamentally ensuring that we maximize our potential,” Haas added. “This truly reflects my desire to compete properly in Formula One.”
Steiner is expected to take some time away before considering his next move in racing. He has various other business interests, and his profile from the Netflix series means he is unlikely to face a shortage of interest for potential media appearances or punditry.
What next for Haas?
Steiner’s departure marks a significant change in structure at the top of Haas so close to the start of a new season.
Komatsu’s appointment follows the recent trend of more figures with technical or engineering backgrounds taking up overall leadership roles at F1 teams. McLaren’s Andrea Stella and Williams’s James Vowles had similar backgrounds before becoming team principals last year, and both enjoyed success.
“We obviously haven’t been competitive enough recently which has been a source of frustration for us all,” Komatsu said. “We have amazing support from Gene and our various partners, and we want to mirror their enthusiasm with an improved on-track product.”
While Komatsu will be supported by an incoming chief operating officer, Haas still needs to strengthen its technical department as Simone Resta, its technical director since 2021, also left the team during the offseason.
Steiner’s exit is also likely to have an impact on Haas’s profile given his popularity through “Drive to Survive.” His character and charisma helped lift interest in the team, which may be difficult to recapture following this management shake-up.
But by doubling down on its technical push to improve its fortunes on track, Haas will hope this change provides the lift to buck the trend of its recent struggles.
(Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty Images)