Guenther Steiner is now in his 36th year in the motorsport industry. The man who started his professional career in rallying back in 1986 (having joined Mazda Rally Team Europe as a mechanic) is now one of the most recognisable faces in the world of Formula One. This elevated status of recognition is no doubt a knock-on effect of his presence in Netflix Drive to Survive. The man steering the Steiner Ship was kind enough to sit down exclusively with Motorlat ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In this first part of our far-reaching discussion, Guenther Steiner shares his thoughts on his managerial approach, not yet fully utilising the VF-22 package and the performance of Mick Schumacher - not to mention the impact of a congested F1 race calendar.
As we sat down to begin our interview, it was posed to Guenther Steiner that many people regard him as ‘honest and forthright’ but surely these are qualities and characteristics that anyone would expect to see in a successful manager.
“I think it's the right thing, I mean I just speak my mind and sometimes I may be a little bit too direct for some people in the end. You know if somebody gets offended, I mean that's not my intention but as you say, should not any managerial position be like this? It should be like this but maybe it’s not, so you know sometimes some people think taking a slower way to give an answer is better…I mean I don't really want to change.” Steiner replied
The world of Formula One should certainly not want Guenther Steiner to change. At a time when F1 is bigger than ever, it is the personalities that sell the sport as much as the events happening on track. Nevertheless, with the sport bigger than ever, so too is the race calendar.
With such a congested calendar of Grand Prix weekends in recent years, Motorlat asked Guenther Steiner if the human element of F1 was being forgotten. The reason being that, from the outside, as a result of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix being the following weekend, there seemed to be hardly any time to celebrate Kevin Magnussen’s incredible P5 success in Bahrain on his F1 return at the start of the season. An achievement which brought 10 valuable points to Haas F1 Team - when the season prior had seen them fail to score a single one.
“I think the world is getting faster and faster in general you know. Like what you’re doing now maybe 15, 20 years ago wouldn't have been possible. I think we need to keep up with what the demand is for what we are doing. Compare it, it’s a bit like, what was the motor cycle of a car 20 years ago it was a lot slower than now, so I think everything is just getting faster and faster.
“So, I don't think it's forgotten, everything is faster, so you need to do something new to be current again. It's a very, as you say, it's development of the world and of society, we just want more better and faster that's my opinion. And as a sport we need to stay there obviously we always have to think about there's not always only good things to it, you know as you say they are human beings they are getting worn out because if you keep on going racing at some stage there will be some people not possible to follow but I mean we try to do our best because the demand of Formula One is here at the moment and we need to fulfill it otherwise somebody else takes over the demand.”
Guenther Steiner’s remarks show a clear awareness that there are many sports which would love the limelight F1 currently finds itself in. There are also many drivers who would love to be racing in Formula One. After just seven Grands Prix of a 22-race season, there is already speculation, in some areas of the media, that the next thing to be taken over in F1 will be the seat of Mick Schumacher.
One of the drivers no doubt hopeful of reaching the F1 starting grid is Haas F1 Team’s official test and reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi. The American-born Brazilian racing driver competes in the Le Mans 24 hours this weekend, but will Guenther Steiner be watching? ‘Yeah, I will have a look at it, you know I will, not on tv obviously, on the Internet I will check up. I will not be sitting there 24 hours continuously, I will not, no, that will not happen, I will go to sleep but I will follow who's winning and also how Pietro’s doing.” Steiner confirmed.
The reason Pietro Fittipaldi may be hopeful of claiming a starting seat at Haas F1 Team is due to the current form of Mick Schumacher. Whereas Kevin Magnussen has recorded 15 points for Haas so far this season, the inconsistent form of Schumacher (coupled with some bad luck) has seen the German racer still fail to score a single point in Formula One. Guenther Steiner was asked for his thoughts on the current performance of Schumacher now that he is no longer a rookie in the pinnacle of motorsport.
“I mean this is a sport where you need to perform. Or any sport, I think any professional sport, you need to perform and for him [Mick] as well it's the same thing. At some stage, he needs to bring the performance. You know, just being a perfect driver but not scoring points, that doesn't make you last because sport’s about performance and especially Formula One.
“There is twenty people which drive these cars and the list of people wanting to drive these cars is a lot, it's very long you know, so in the end…hopefully when he gets his first point he gets in a groove and then keeps on bringing more points. But for sure, the pressure is on now for him obviously after having one season as rookie with not a lot of pressure and now this year at having a good teammate and a good car there needs to be something at the end of it. Steiner commented.
Therefore, had any decision been made yet on who will partner Kevin Magnussen in 2023 seeing how K-Mag is on a multi-year deal until the end of 2023 whereas Mick Schumacher’s contract with Haas (as it stands) ends at the end of this year. Steiner’s reply will hopefully fill Mick Schumacher with confidence as it shows that the popular German racer still has time to show on track his full potential. “No, we can wait a little bit longer, we never made a decision on the drivers before the summer break you know we always wait a few races after the summer break to make a decision so we don't really think about that one - what we're doing next year. We have to figure out what we do this year you know because we have to achieve that one because we didn't score points in the last races.”
Haas’ qualifying pace looked to be really strong in Imola and Barcelona but even so, does Guenther Steiner feel that there’s any particular area where the team need to improve on wIth the package of the VF-22?
“No, I mean the car is pretty good I mean I continue to say this but then you’d ask me why you don’t have scored any points in the last three races, it’s a legit question you could have but I think the car is pretty good we just have to get it all together on the weekend again you know like we did in Bahrain at the beginning of the season. We didn't have a weekend without problems or issues, once we get it together, I think we're OK I mean, as you said we qualified good then we had an issue on the race and then when we qualify badly then we race well. There is always something you know we're in a good position and then we have a mechanical failure like in Monte Carlo so there's always some reason or something which goes on and I don't try to find excuses in my opinion we just need to get better to finish a weekend without any issues or errors.” Steiner explained.
Currently sitting P8 in the constructors’ Championship, Haas F1 Team is just two points behind AlphaTauri, and history has shown that things change very quickly in Formula One. For the team that had to settle being permanently at the back of the pack in 2021 to now be performing so well in 2022 shows how far they have come. It is safe to assume though, that P7 is the minimum of what Guenther Steiner and his team hope to achieve having already reached the lofty heights of a finishing position of fifth in the 2018 standings.
This weekend is as good as any for Haas F1 Team to return to scoring points, as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be the team’s 130th F1 Grand Prix. Even after so many races, Guenther Steiner’s favourite memory of the team goes right back to the start in 2016 “When we came out in Australia and scored our first points in our first race.” Nevertheless, the expectation of the VF-22 gives reason to believe that there could be many more happy memories to come for the team in the near future so don’t be surprised if that was to happen this weekend in Baku.