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Guenther Steiner: Former Hass boss speaks out for first time on F1 exit and how it happened

In his first TV interview since his shock exit from his long-held team principal role, Guenther Steiner speaks to Sky Sports News about when and how he found out he was leaving and whether his status as a Drive to Survive star ultimately had any negative impact

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Former Haas team principal Guenther Steiner reveals how his departure was handled and what the possible reason might have been

Guenther Steiner has spoken to Sky Sports about his unexpected departure from Haas, admitting he had not seen the exit coming and insisting that his reluctant 'celebrity' status had brought more positives than negatives to the team.

In his first TV interview since his shock exit from the team principal role after 10 years was announced on Wednesday, Steiner told Sky Sports News that:

  • He was told his contract was not being renewed between Christmas and New Year
  • He had made the case for more investment in infrastructure at the team to mirror their F1 rivals
  • Although his status as a Drive to Survive star "could have" caused disquiet among some at Haas, it "worked a lot in favour of the team" and the exposure was not something he courted
  • Gene Haas will have to "live with the consequences" of saying he was "embarrassed" his team have not performed better
  • "Good things will come" in his future but he is in no rush to take another F1 role

Steiner was speaking at Birmingham's NEC on Saturday as he honoured a pre-planned appearance at the Autosport International Show.

Asked if the news his contract was not being renewed by Haas had surprised him, Steiner told Craig Slater: "Obviously nobody was happy with the results in 2023 but I didn't see this coming.

"I knew that the renewal of my contract was coming up and then when a renewal is coming up it can be that it's not getting renewed."

Revealing when and how he was informed of the decision, Steiner said: "It was a phone call from Gene Haas to me.

"I was in Italy on my Christmas break and he called me up between Christmas and New Year."

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Did Drive to Survive cult status ultimately cause Steiner problems?

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Watch back Guenther Steiner's best bits from his final season as Haas boss

Although team boss at F1's smallest outfit, Steiner had been catapulted into wider stardom in recent years thanks to Netflix's Drive to Survive, with the behind-the-scenes docuseries' capture of the Italian's characteristically forthright and sometimes expletive-laden views exposing him to a new audience.

Asked if he was ever conscious that his new-found 'celebrity' status could have been an issue for Gene Haas or other employees at the team, Steiner replied: "Not really, but thinking back now, it could have.

"But in the end that celebrity gave the team a lot of exposure, brought in very good sponsors like MoneyGram because they liked that because they could use that [profile].

"There are always positives and negatives to any deal so maybe there were some positives and somebody brought up the negatives.

"These are things you cannot always plan for because I was not out there trying to look for celebrity. It happened to me and only the people who know me know that, so I'm ok with that."

He added: "I didn't get up in the morning to be a celebrity. I get up in the morning to work. But I think it worked a lot in favour of the team because without that maybe it would have been closed before."

Haas will 'have to live with the consequences' of comments

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Craig Slater gives his thoughts on the task Ayao Komatsu will have on his hands, following the news that the Japanese engineer will be taking over from Guenther Steiner as team principal of Haas

On the track, Haas slipped back to 10th and last place in last season's Constructors' Championship, having improved two places to eighth the year before.

Gene Haas said in an interview with F1 earlier this week that Steiner's exit ultimately "came down to performance" of the team on the track and that, although he was "not sitting here saying it's Guenther's fault", he felt it was time to make a change as he was "embarrassed that we haven't been able to do better" given their technical partnership with F1 giants Ferrari.

Asked if he had a response to the use of the word 'embarrassing', Steiner said: "I think everybody can choose his words but you need to think about the people which work for you and put a lot of effort in.

"Obviously, when you say these things in the end you have to live with the consequences."

Did difference of opinion over funding lead to Steiner's exit?

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Craig Slater is joined by David Croft and former F1 world champion Damon Hill to discuss the potential reasoning behind Guenther Steiner's departure from Haas and the impact it could have on the team in the 2024 season

Sky Sports News understands that Steiner's contract was not renewed by team owner Haas as the pair had differing options about the next steps for the team in terms of the timing for additional funding in infrastructure.

Asked if that was a fair assessment of what had led to the parting of ways, Steiner said: "I would say what is a fair assessment is when you look at the other teams where they are going since the budget cap came into place, a lot of teams - all of the teams - invested in the infrastructure.

"Therefore it is not spending money, it is investing to use the budget cap, the operational budget cap, as best as possible that you can put money in to make the car go quick. Some people started straight away in 2020, 2021. Some people started last year, but everybody is doing it.

"I think that was one of the things. I look at the other ones and I suggest what needs and should be done."

Image: Team owner Gene Haas (left) and Guenther Steiner had worked hand-in-hand for a decade before the split

Although ostensibly only the team principal at the Banbury-based team, Steiner's influence and role was significantly wider, while he is also credited with ensuring the team's survival in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Obviously, I think without me in 2020 it wouldn't have been around anymore. But Gene Haas owns the team so in the end he's free to do what he wants," he added.

"I cannot accuse him of anything. I can accuse him but it doesn't do anything because he can make his decisions, he is free to decide.

"I am actually fine, my life will continue. I will have fun, I will stay around. Something will pop up. I'm doing good.

"In the end a good period in my life came to an end, but maybe an even better one starts."

Steiner said it was ultimately Haas' prerogative to make a change. He has been replaced by Ayao Komatsu, who had been director of engineering.

"In the end he owns the team and can make this decision," he added. "I have to respect that and obviously I do. It was 10 years and it was ok. If he doesn't want to continue with me, he's free to do that."

What now for Guenther? Will he return to F1?

"I have got still a lot in me, but I am not in a hurry," insisted the 58-year-old, who first worked in F1 in 2001 with the Jaguar team which eventually became Red Bull.

"I am not desperate. I want to enjoy now my time with my family.

"Good things will come. I always say: one door closes, at least two other ones open. So I will wait which ones [open] and obviously pick the right one to do the next thing.

"But at the moment I want to sit back and look a little bit and do things I missed to do the last 10 years like staying with my family and doing some travel in my own time. And watch F1."

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