Günther Steiner departs Haas F1 team

Team principal role to be filled by director of engineering Ayao Komatsu.
  • Steiner had been team principal of Haas since 2014
  • Komatsu first joined the team as chief race engineer in 2016

Günther Steiner has left the Haas Formula One team after ten years as team principal.

The current director of engineering Ayao Komatsu has been appointed to replace the iconic figurehead of the team.

Steiner gained international recognition through his starring role in Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, with his blunt and expletive-laden rants proving a hit with fans.

“I’d like to start by extending my thanks to Günther Steiner for all his hard work over the past decade and I wish him well for the future,” said Gene Haas, owner of Haas.

“Moving forward as an organisation, it was clear we need to improve our on-track performances. In appointing Ayao Komatsu as team principal we fundamentally have engineering at the heart of our management.”

Speaking to the F1 website, Haas expanded: “Here we are in our eighth year, over 160 races – we have never had a podium. The last couple of years, we’ve been 10th or ninth.

“I’m not sitting here saying it’s Günther’s fault, or anything like that, but it just seems like this was an appropriate time to make a change and try a different direction, because it doesn’t seem like continuing with what we had is really going to work.”

Haas, who also co-owns the Stewart-Haas Racing team in Nascar, has moved to address a sense of stagnation at his eponymous Formula One team, with the outfit finishing higher than eighth in the standings only once since they joined the sport.

Komatsu has been with the team since its debut season in 2016, and the 47-year-old will now take responsibility for the team’s overall strategy and on-track performance, with a brief to maximise the team’s potential through employee empowerment and structural process and efficiency.

“We looked from within, at who had most experience,” continued Haas. “Ayao has been with the team since day one, he knows the ins and outs of it. My biggest concern is when we go to Bahrain, we need to show up with a car that is ready to go. Maybe having more of a managerial-type and engineering approach, we’ll see if that has benefits.

“I think Guenther had more of a human-type approach to everything with people and the way he interacted with people, he was very good at that. Ayao is very technical, he looks at things based on statistics – this is what we’re doing bad, where can we do better.

“It’s a different approach. We really do need something different because we weren’t really doing that well. Like I said, it all comes down to eight years in, dead last. Nothing more I can say on that.”

BlackBook says…

Despite their disappointing results, it’s a surprise to see Steiner jettisoned ahead of the 2024 season.

With a budget cap now in place in Formula One, perhaps expectations around results have shifted, but the commercial weight of Steiner will be difficult to replace.

Mark Morrell, director of marketing at Haas, told BlackBook Motorsport that Steiner was “a third driver in terms of popularity” for the team, with Haas also winning business directly because of the Italian.

Ultimately, Steiner has taken the brunt of some difficult commercial decisions as a result of Gene Haas’ reluctance to adequately invest in the team. Deals with Rich Energy and Uralkali were controversial but necessary for the team’s survival.

Komatsu will be a different proposition for the team with his engineering background. This may provide a boost to the team’s close technical partnership with Ferrari, but the Italian marque recently showed the pitfalls of appointing an engineer to team principal with the ill-fated reign of Mattia Binotto.

Komatsu’s first port of call will be delivering a race-ready car in Bahrain on 3rd March.

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