With the F1 midfield being as tight as ever, with the improvement of teams like Williams and Alfa Romeo, with getting rid of Kevin Magnussen and not having Romain Grosjean on the team anymore, the team of Gene Haas had to understeer, look out for obstacles, change rear, adapt, and in the way of doing that, mold two new drivers with absolutely no experience in the pinnacle of motorsport.
The Haas’ F1 Team boss opened up in an exclusive with Insider.com on what does it mean to be a Team Principal, how is the American crew facing a time where their biggest satisfaction can come from getting to compete on Q2 during qualifying, and how, being one of the public heads of the organization, Steiner has managed to confront a hard F1 season with a pair of rookie drivers in the category.
"There are not many quiet days, You start with the race on Saturday and Sundays, then on Monday you get back and have to deal with the more mundane things like managing people, HR stuff, business stuff with our partners and sponsors. There is so much stuff you have to deal with. There is always a surprise every day.”
"You look after the whole company. I would say the only thing different to a standard company is that you have to do a lot of things you don't normally have to do in a standard company.”
"You have to deal with the technical stuff, you have to deal with the people, drivers – who are very complex people. You have to deal with the politics of the sport. There is a lot to deal with." said Steiner.
"I don't know if I always wanted to be a team principal, I don't know if I want to be one right now!”
"I just try to support as best as I can and if I'm needed, I'm there to help. Sometimes I'm needed because they trust me pretty well.
"I'm just there to support them. That's my role but I'm quite involved mentally in that. I'm not just watching the race as a spectator."
The American team has not had it easy. Driver’s scandals, lack of sponsors, an on-track performance that just seems to face downwards, and a global pandemic that, in words of the Italian boss Steiner: “hit at the complete wrong time” for Haas.
"Our car wasn't good, then COVID hit and the commercial agreement we had expired. It was a challenge keeping the team going and that's the biggest challenge up to now.”
"The challenge last year was bigger than starting the team up in my opinion because there is something there, you want to keep it going but you need to make a case so that the owner keeps it going. That was the biggest challenge in Haas' history."
Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin have been forced to learn how to handle challenges all along 2021 in a difficult year where Steiner himself admits having changed to try and make everything work inside the team.
"I had to change because I can't expect rookies to be at the level the other guys were because the other guys were on a pretty good level. With these guys, I need to explain more why things happen and how they happen.”
"That is what I try to do. When I see they are ready to be pushed harder, that is what I will do but at the moment, I try to give them as much as I can of my experience so they are getting prepared quicker."
"Next year the goal is to be back in the midfield, to fight for points. Mid-to-long term, it is to get podiums, and hopefully, at some stage, Haas can get wins."
"I'm realistic about it, that is not a short or mid-term thing. With the budget caps that are coming in, the playing field should get more even. That is what we are working on and I think it's achievable," he concluded.