Away from the obvious restrictions of the corporate, PR-driven world of press releases, Gene Haas has shed light on why it was time for Guenther Steiner to go.
On Wednesday, as speculation centred on technical director Simone Resta, rumours began to circulate on social media that team boss Steiner was also on his way out of the team he has run since it entered the sport.
Though the American outfit subsequently confirmed Steiner’s departure – with immediate effect – it has yet to say anything about its technical director. Then again, having become one of the leading characters in the paddock as a result of his participation in Drive to Survive, it is understandable that it is the departure of Steiner that has dominated the headlines.
For team owner Gene Haas however, being in F1 isn’t about having a charismatic team principal, it is about results.
“It came down to performance,” the American tells the official F1 website. “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 Guenther’s fault, or anything like that,” he insists, “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.”
Ahed of the official announcement, social media was rife with speculation that former Ferrari boss, Matteo Binotto might be named as Steiner’s replacement, however Haas admits that this was never really considered.
“I’ve been running Haas Automation for over 40 years now. Bringing people in from the outside, it takes them time to learn, six months to a year, and a lot of time you don’t even like them. It’s better to take people you know,” he admits, “and even if they are not the perfect fit, at least you know what you’re going to get.
“That’s really worked out pretty well for us here at Haas Automation, so I’m really applying a lot of the building blocks that were here to the Formula 1 team.
“I really like to have people that I know, who understand the day-to-day operations, understand the people, rather than bringing in a stranger who is going to stir everything up and create a mess. We looked from within, at who had the most experience. 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.”
Comparing the two, Haas says: “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 badly, 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.
“I like Guenther, he’s a really nice person, a really good personality,” he concludes. “We had a tough end to the year. I don’t understand that, I really don’t. Those are good questions to ask Guenther, as to what went wrong. At the end of the day, it’s about performance. I have no interest in being 10th anymore.”
Not wanting to be tenth anymore is exactly what Steiner had previously said, and whilst this is totally understandable, what is the American team going to do to improve its position.
“I talk to a lot of the engineers, and I think our biggest failing is aero; our aero programme needs work,” admits Haas. “When you’re at the track and you’re humiliated every weekend, I’m going to stop taking that one anymore.”
The speculation linking Binotto with Steiner’s role wasn’t simply about the Italian’s obvious availability, but his association with Ferrari, with which Haas has close ties. However, having already admitted that the former boss at Maranello was never really considered, Haas was keen to stress the importance of the relationship with the Italian team.
“Ferrari has been very good to us. They have been with us since day one, they build incredible engines. Their suspension is extremely good. We have been using a lot of their hardware.
“It works really well,” he adds. “They really do help us. I’m embarrassed that we haven’t been able to do better with it, but going forward, I want to take advantage of good equipment that a lot of other teams don’t have.
“Things are going to get a lot more competitive. Red Bull have AlphaTauri, we’re starting to see these relationships evolve, and I think the competition is going to be very intense, so having a partner like Ferrari is going to be very important.”