The Formula One offseason never ceases to bring its surprises. From new team names to the yearly silly season, fans are staying entertained even while cars aren’t out on track. In the latest breaking news of 2024, the Haas F1 team principal, Guenther Steiner, has been let go effective immediately. This comes as a shock to all fans, considering Steiner created the team from the ground up alongside team owner Gene Haas. He’s been there through all the highs and lows of their decade-long existence and was one of F1’s longest-standing team principals. More recently, Steiner has become an icon of the paddock due to the hit Netflix show Drive to Survive. Fans immediately took a liking to him due to his unique personality and wildly bold statements.
The team has had more lows than highs in the last few years, unfortunately. No one wants to see a team struggle, but that’s the nature of this sport. As one of the smallest teams on the F1 grid, their budget is a big talking point. Even with the newly introduced budget cap giving teams a maximum of $135 million to spend each year, Haas barely hits that mark. Bigger and established teams such as Ferrari or Mercedes have the resources to reach the allocated cap with ease.
One of the ways in which a team receives funding is through sponsors. Haas has gone through many over the last few years, most notably their “Rich Energy” title sponsor and the controversial Russian “Uralkali” title sponsor, both of which didn’t stick for various reasons. Steiner has always made sure the team had a way to survive, wanting the team to make it for the long haul.
The last few years have been tough for Haas with their overall performance and reliability. Their lack of pace resulted in minimal points over the last few seasons. Points are one of the most crucial things for any team, but especially a small team like Haas. The fewer points a team earns results in a lower amount of prize money at the end of a season. Keep in mind the difference of just one place in the standings can be around $9-11 million.
Haas finished dead last in the constructors standings in 2021 with zero points, a slight increase in performance for the 2022 season with an eighth place constructors finish, but ultimately ending up in last place yet again most recently for the 2023 season. This doesn’t bode well for team morale and it ultimately lands on the shoulders of the team leader, Steiner. Taking the brunt of difficult phone calls with Gene Haas for many years, he’s been replaced by Director of Engineering, Ayao Komatsu, for the upcoming season and he, hopefully, won’t have to make those difficult calls.
Throughout Steiner’s reign as team principal, there have been many positive and memorable moments that won’t be forgotten. From points on their debut as an official F1 team, to Kevin Magnussen’s pole position in dramatic fashion in Brazil, those are the moments teams and fans live for. But to move forward in a positive direction, the team can’t become successful on those one-off moments that don’t happen consistently each race weekend.
F1 is a sink or swim sport in which no one has a guaranteed future. In its competitive nature, teams will do whatever it takes to win. They’re constantly developing and working to improve, even if that means saying goodbye to a close member of the team. No hard feelings; it’s just business.