Günther, this has been Haas’ first pre-season without any major overhaul - 2016 was the first season, and in 2017 we had the new regulations - so have you found greater stability going into this year and been able to benefit from that?

Günther Steiner: Yeah, I would say so. It’s still challenging. You always make a completely new car anyway. I think we are stabilising, but everyone else is. It’s not an advantage. It’s just like we focused more on doing development instead of inventing a new process. We should be better.

So 2018 is more of an evolution than a revolution?

GS: Exactly. It’s a complete evolution. There’s no revolution here with us. It’s an evolution. All the processes are smoother and it’s better. It’s pretty good.

This also extends to the driver line-up as well, as you were able to get Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean locked in early.

GS: Yeah. If you don’t change anything, you don’t have to think about it. You can focus on other stuff. In theory, it’s always a good thing if you’re convinced that this is the best you can get. We wanted to stay stable for one year to see how we can improve on that side, with having the same drivers, not making changes. But we still have to see how it ends up.

They are two top talents. It must give you great confidence knowing you’ve got two of the best drivers in the midfield?

GS: Absolutely. I think we can say in the midfield we have got very solid drivers. They were both on the podium already in grand prix racing. That is the reason why we kept them. There is no point to change. If you change, you need to change for something better - whatever is better, you know.

As the team works together, are you finding there is more cohesion, teamwork and team spirit going into season three?

GS: I don’t think that has changed a lot. I think when you are a new team, there is a lot of teamwork, because otherwise you cannot get it done. The guys bond really quickly. When you get bigger, that has got different challenges. I think the challenges are different, but I would say there is good harmony in the team. There are always issues. When people want to do their best, there is always friction, but it’s not negative friction. It’s sometimes positive. It’s actually difficult to explain. If people get along too good, nobody is challenged. You all agree that this is fantastic, but it isn’t. I think the first year and the second year, they were particularly good for the team because without the team helping to guide each other, we couldn’t have done what we did.

Complacency may set in, so you want that challenge?

GS: Correct, correct. I don’t want complacency to set in. We are all getting on. Everything is fine now. Complacency is not good. In the beginning, the problem is getting people to work together to get the best out of them, and at some stage you have to watch that people are still challenged and put their effort in.

The team is split across bases in the USA, UK and Italy. Have you found any cultural differences and challenges as a result?

GS: Yeah, there are, as you can imagine. That’s why the question is raised. There are. But I think the world is becoming a smaller place in general. Then you just need to try in my position to deal with it. I know the cultures pretty well. I lived in England for 10 years. I’m from North Italy, so I know the Italian one. I lived in the United States for 11 years. So I think I’ve got a good understanding of the cultures. You just need to sometimes explain to people how other people think. It needs work. It doesn’t come just from having one nationality working together, because if they’re the same culture, they understand immediately. But we’re getting there. It’s always a challenge as well. You always need to work on that one.

Looking at the team’s expansion with 2021 and the new regulations on the horizon - is it hard to plan for the future not knowing? For example, you can’t go on a massive recruitment drive if a cost cap were to then come in.

GS: Absolutely, but that’s not only for us. I think other teams need [to know] as well. I wouldn’t say I propose which way to go, but let us know what the way is so we can make plans. As you just said, 2020 is not far away. In this sport, if you think we start to work on next year, on the 2019 car, in two months, we have 14 months until the ’20 car. I think that there will be something coming out soon hopefully. At least we can make plans on how to conduct business at the best.

Does that uncertainty affect a smaller team more than a bigger team that may be more adaptable?

GS: I think it could even be the opposite, that the smaller teams which have not got so many changes to make, because if a cost cap comes, how much it is and where it is. For a small team, they are nearer to the cost cap because they are the benchmark. I think the big teams would have the bigger problem, if you go from a big spend to a small spend, you’ve got a lot of work to do. I guess the big teams don’t want a cost cap anyway.

You’re already at a small scale already that the FIA may want teams to reduce to.

GS: Exactly. We can do it tomorrow - to a certain extent, obviously. If there is a cost cap of $50 million, we cannot do it tomorrow. If it is between $50m and $200m, we are ready, we are there.

When do you need clarity from Liberty over the 2021 regulations?

GS: If it is tomorrow, then fantastic. But it will not be. The earlier it comes, the better.

But there has to be a cut-off point at some stage?

GS: Yeah. Because I don’t know what is coming, I cannot give you a cut-off point. If we keep everything the same, you can leave it late, or if you leave it where we are now, you can do it tomorrow. I would say we are on standby. There is a point where we need to say ‘what are we going to do with the team’, but that’s our decision. That’s nothing to do with Liberty.

There’s been a lot of focus on manufacturers and what they want in terms of the engines etc. What about the smaller teams? Do you feel represented or do you feel you’re being overshadowed a little bit when it comes to looking at the future of the sport?

GS: I wouldn’t say we are overshadowed. I think a lot of teams made clear where they want to go. It’s now down to Liberty to negotiate contracts with people who have different ideas. I think the teams in the midfield, they all agree and say ‘yes, it’s fine what you propose’. We don’t need to negotiate. It’s more for Liberty and the FIA to sort it out with the big teams.

So what would you say is at the top of your wishlist from Liberty, moving forward? What’s the one thing you would like to see?

GS: Getting the field closer together, which can be done with the budget cap I think. That is one of the means you can do it. That is top of the list. This is not a Haas agenda. This is an agenda for the sport, in my opinion, getting the field together so the fans get exciting racing. You get the odd curveball thrown in there with podiums. It’s always nice, people talk about it. We had complete Mercedes domination for a long time. Then we had last year the race between Ferrari and Mercedes which was already good, but the gap between the other ones is just too high.

It’s that extra unpredictability so that Haas could hit the podium.

GS: Correct, but I don't think it’s Haas - it’s anybody in here. But we always have to remember that we are not racing for ourselves. We are not racing for Haas. We are racing for Formula 1. Haas racing on its own, nobody would watch it. We need to put a show on for the fans who then look at it, and look as well from the big ones to the small ones. That is what we want. We don’t want Formula 1 to do what Haas wants to do. What we would like to see is a coherent plan between 10 teams so that our audience gets bigger.

We spoke previously about the push to change the pre-season testing schedule after the snow and how it would be impossible for even two teams to agree, let alone 10 - so getting a coherent plan seems difficult.

GS: We will not agree with the teams. We will not. That’s for somebody else to do, the authorities have to do it. We have no chance.

That’s where the FIA and FOM need to come in.

GS: And come up with good ideas. I would not even say they have to put their fist on the table. They have to come up with something that is acceptable to the big manufacturers. What it is, don’t ask me if that is your next question! I’m not representing Liberty Media here!

Haha, of course not! But Ferrari have made a lot of noise about Liberty’s plans. They are a big technical partner of yours. Does it make it harder for you to plan into the future when Ferrari is maybe questioning what it is doing in F1 moving forwards?

GS: Yes. But I think Ferrari is again in a position where they are not questioning what they are doing, they are questioning when do we know what we are doing because then we can decide. I don’t think they’re questioning what is happening. I think they’re questioning when do they know. It’s nothing more than us, because the big teams have got the same problem as us, ‘what are we going to do?’. Whether we like it or not, it’s the same thing, because then we can make a decision. If we don’t like it, maybe we do something else. I don’t know. They need to know what the big plan for F1 is to make their decision. But for sure, they are a good technical partner of ours, and if they do something different, maybe we have to look into it how we’re going to do what we want to do.

A lot hinges on 2021 then…

GS: Absolutely. I think the future hinges on when do we get to know where the show is going.

Do you feel you’ve already proved a point and bucked a trend with Haas? In 2010 three new teams came in, and none of them really succeeded. Haas have come in and removed the level of scepticism after those episodes. Has that made a point and answered a lot of critics about what it takes to be successful in F1?

GS: I think so. I think it’s good for F1, us coming in, being stable, doing our job, paying our bills. I think what we have to be careful of is that now, as you said, in 2010, three teams came. Three teams left a few years later. It was all negativ - 'new teams don’t work, they can never make it'. Now Haas came, did it, and now everybody new coming is doing the Haas story. It’s a bit like with this circuit. Should we go to Bahrain [for testing]? Sure, if I look at this weather, we should go to Bahrain. But if next week we have a good test, we forget pretty quickly about the first one, ‘why would we go to Bahrain? We had a fantastic test’. You always remember the last thing. It’s the same with the teams. The last teams all came and went. Now with Haas, it’s they came and it looks like they’re here to stay. The next one which will come will be the just the same. There is never anything the same in the future. We need to be a little bit careful, but I think we have proven that we did a good job. Gene did what he said he was going to do. He wanted to come to F1 with a different view, with a different business model, and he achieved that.

Once 2021 is defined, that’s when new teams may look to come in. Do you think new teams will look at the Haas model and think that is the right way to go?

GS: I think for sure they will look at it. If they copy it or not, I don’t know. But for sure it’s a model worth looking at for somebody new. I would if I were new. But maybe the new guys coming in have got another idea, a better idea than we had. You never know. I’m not saying that this is the ultimate idea. I won’t be like before saying ‘this will not work’. I was told that many times, and it worked. And now everybody says it was the greatest idea. There are greater ideas than this one out there. This is just one of the ideas that there is out there to do.

It must be quite a point of pride for you that you’ve made this work after so many people said it wouldn’t?

GS: I think it’s personal, but I think I’m proud for the team, everyone who is there. I’m thankful to Gene that we came up with this idea, and that he believed in it and we got it done. I just do the job. But I think there are a lot of people in this team who believed in it as well. Without the believers there, I cannot do it all myself. In general, yeah, I’m happy about it. It worked. To prove critics wrong is always pretty nice. We were told so many times this will never work. It seems to be working. We’re still not there where we want to be. We just need to keep on digging.

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