New Haas F1 team principal Komatsu ‘not trying to be Günther Steiner’

This season will be Haas' first without charismatic Italian team principal.
Getty Images
  • Gene Haas wants ‘performing organisation’ rather than ‘like-for-like’ Steiner replacement
  • Komatsu says he’s ‘not going to turn into a marketing guru’ like his predecessor

New Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu says he is “not trying to be Günther Steiner” as the US-based Formula One team gears up for its first season without the charismatic Italian.

Komatsu replaced Steiner as team principal in early January, where the latter had been team principal since 2014.

Komatsu is a very different character to Steiner with his engineering background and the 48-year-old implied that this was very much in team owner Gene Haas’ thinking.

“I’m not trying to be Günther Steiner, and I’m not trying to replace him as a character,” he told BlackBook Motorsport. “If Gene wanted to replace Günther [like-for-like], he would have chosen somebody else.

“The message from Gene is pretty clear. He wants a performing organisation, and that’s what I’m trying to do. All I can do is be the best version of myself. If I’m trying to be somebody else, am I going to succeed? Of course not.”

However, Steiner’s commercial weight will be difficult to replace, with Mark Morrell, director of marketing at Haas, having previously told BlackBook Motorsport that Steiner was like “a third driver in terms of popularity”.

Morrell added: “We’ve won business over the last year on the basis that – and a sponsor fed this back to me – Günther was the only team principal that bothered to turn up to the meeting.”

This sentiment was echoed by Greg Hall, chief marketing officer of MoneyGram, who said Steiner “was important for us” when originally signing the deal with Haas.

“We had a great relationship with Günther,” Hall said to BlackBook Motorsport when asked about the reaction to Steiner’s departure.

“Ayao and I got to spend some time together and we think about things very similarly. We’re excited about it, but we’re going to continue bringing the things we did last year, bringing fans and customers closer to the action.

“That’s what makes it all work for us, we learned a lot last year. There’s things we’ll do less of, things we’ll do more of, but the focus remains the same.”

When asked if he would have the same involvement commercially as his predecessor, Komatsu said: “No. Of course we work together with MoneyGram, I had a good chat with Greg [Hall] and we are aligned on what we want to achieve.

“On that side, if I can play a role in enhancing that relationship, I’m all for it. But I’m not going to suddenly turn into a marketing guru, that’s not me. I’ll be doing it in a very different way to Günther.”


Related content