Günther Steiner interview: The secrets to Haas F1's success

Günther, it's been quite a busy morning already here in Mexico with the Rich Energy announcement, how did that deal come about?

Günther Steiner: We started to talk with them, and it came along pretty quickly.

Günther Steiner interview: The secrets to Haas F1's success

Günther, it's been quite a busy morning already here in Mexico with the Rich Energy announcement, how did that deal come about?

Günther Steiner: We started to talk with them, and it came along pretty quickly.

A title sponsorship deal is always a big thing for teams to do, I’m guessing it must be quite a significant deal?

GS: Absolutely. It’s our biggest deal up to now. I think it shows what we are doing here is recognised from people outside, because in the first year, it is always difficult to get sponsors because first of all, you have to prove yourself. Then you get approached, but it’s for very low numbers because they think you are cheap. We decided not to do that. This came along, and we just found an agreement between the two of us, between the two companies.

Things accelerated pretty quickly by the sounds of things, the deal was only signed at COTA?

GS: Yep.

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Not much is known about Rich Energy company, there are few questions floating about it online. Are you confident in terms of all the information you’ve got from them and their vision for this partnership?

GS: Absolutely, and to explain their company, it’s better to ask them than me, because it’s their company and I cannot speak for them. We are happy about the partnership, and for sure, that is why they’re doing it, now they’ve got the exposure, they’ll get even more well-known. They will grow.

The team said there will be a livery change as a result of the deal, marking a shift in identity. Is this something the team really had to think about and consider when weighing up this move?

GS: Absolutely, you have to think about it, but it’s Gene’s decision in the end how the car looks, and he was happy with it and for the future. That is why we signed.

When we spoke in pre-season, things were looking quite good for Haas. But looking back at the year that has followed, how have things matched up to your expectations?

GS: I think the expectations would have been that we’d be in fourth now, but we are not. We can still achieve it. It’s not so easy, but if you have a good day one of the three races, we can achieve it. Otherwise, sure, if you would have asked me last year if I would sign for fifth place next year, I would have said 'yes, give it to me!' But then again, you get into it, and you’re never happy. If you’re competitive, you’re never happy with what you have achieved. You always want more. That is not being greedy, that’s just being competitive. I think we are having a good year. It’s not good enough, obviously, but in the end, no, we are happy.

Was there always that confidence from the beginning of testing that things were going to be strong this year?

GS: There was confidence, but as I always said, I’m cautiously optimistic, because the other people here are very good. It looked good at the testing, but then we didn’t have any racing. If you are new, you’re very cautious in whatever you do because you can never be over-confident because that is never good. We were cautious, and we are still cautious. I hope we can keep this form for next year now. That is our next aim.

Is there key element about this year that you can really pick out as to why Haas has been so successful? Is it the way the team gels together? What one thing can you pick out?

GS: I would say we’ve got a good bunch of people, a good group of people. They learned in the last two years, and we still have got a lot of weak areas. That makes me even more confident for the future because I know we are not perfect, far from being perfect. We have good people which just need time, and this is so difficult to do. The only thing you cannot buy is time, and that is what we need. We just need time to mature. That is what we are doing, and hopefully we mature quick enough that we can always make progress.

Günther Steiner interview: The secrets to Haas F1's success

Is there one season highlight that you can pick out? Is Austria the stand-out moment, when you finished fourth and fifth?

GS: I mean, for sure, we are proud of what we achieved in Austria. To finish fourth and fifth in a Formula 1 grand prix in your third year is quite outstanding I would say. But I think in general, the whole season, it’s just the ups and downs. I think what we are doing, the whole thing, the ups and downs, the drama, there’s no point where you can say this is the most exciting or the lowest point, because maybe a low point is a high point. No, I think for me the outstanding point is what the team is achieving all over the year.

Going from year-to-year as well, with Kevin Magnussen especially, this seems to have been his strongest season so far in F1. Did you see a shift between the seasons with him? Or was it a case of polishing that diamond?

GS: I think you’re right with that. Everyone knew that Kevin has got the speed. He just needed to be at the right place at the right time, and I think this year was a good year for him. It was a good year for him because it’s his second year with the team. The car came along very good, so you get all of the confidence. It’s an amalgamation of a lot of little things which makes it good. It’s not one thing. I’m always convinced in life to be good, you need to be good at a lot of small things, not just one thing. For him, a lot of things came together. I think he’s confident, he had a two-year contract, he went into the season relaxed that he is here to stay. I think it is pretty good for him.

He gets a lot of criticism, and it seems very easy for drivers to blame Magnussen over team radio for incidents. Is it getting quite boring to hear that repeated criticism thrown at him?

GS: I think we in general get a lot of criticism. But as I say, it’s getting old. We need to respect if you do something on purpose, but you don’t do that, and we are not those people which are going out there to be devious or anything. We are sometimes in a place, and he races hard. For sure, if you want to get to the top… if you want to make a cake, you’ve got to break eggs. It’s part of life - so long as you’re not breaking too many. Nobody is intentionally trying to do this or being harder than he needs to be, but this is when you make your way. Also his personality, it’s like maybe some people don’t like it, but I think he’s a good guy and he races hard. If sometimes somebody is unhappy, so be it.

You would want to make him change his approach or get rid of any of that?

GS: No! So long as we’re not doing anything nasty on purpose, and he doesn’t, we are fine.

With Romain as well, it was a very, very tough start to the season for him, but he’s really come on since then. Again, did you see a turning point in the year for him?

GS: Yeah, I think we all saw it. If you think now, he got into Q3 11 times in a row [prior to Mexico], it never happened to him before.


GS: Yeah exactly! That is quite an achievement for a team like ours. I was just told this last race, I did not know it as well, because it just goes by you so quickly. So that is quite an achievement. Something changed for him. I still haven’t understood what. I just hope he understood what changed so he doesn’t make a change back again. We are quite openly speaking about these things, and I think he seems to be in control of it. Hopefully it stays like this.

Günther Steiner interview: The secrets to Haas F1's success

Was it reassuring to see that change when it came to thinking about next year? You’ve spoken about stability being the key for the team, but was there ever a point where you were thinking that you really might have had to make a change?

GS: Obviously we were looking around. You have to look around because if it continues like this, it’s also not good for him. Sometimes it’s not only that the team wants to change, sometimes the driver in a team stagnates or doesn’t go anywhere, or he is not motivated. Then he needs to find new challenges. It was like ‘hey should we look around’ and I spoke with a lot of people, and they came and spoke to me, because with a car like this, a lot of people want to speak with you. We looked around, but we never got into any real… I’m always serious if I talk with people, I never steal peoples’ time, but we never got into any negotiations with anybody. I think he just came around at the right time. Again, our aim was to keep him because for the obvious reason, stability is worth a lot in this sport. Thank God it ended up like this.

You mentioned about having drivers coming to you about a seat. That must have been a really big boost to the team, showing that with the work that you’re doing, in only your third season, you’ve got a car that drivers really want to be in?

GS: Yeah, for sure, it proves to everybody the job we have done.

In terms of always wanting to be more competitive, to always want more and ideally make that step up to the ‘big three’ in F1 - 2021, does that seem to be the best turning point for that? And are you getting enough from Liberty about the plans for then?

GS: I don’t know enough about the plans yet to comment on if 2021 is the right year. I still hope so, but for me to say yes it is all happening, it’s a little bit too early.

Were you expecting to know more by this point?

GS: I would say so, yes.

We’ve got the team meetings going on as well now without Liberty, is the lack of information something you are discussing?

GS: Absolutely. It’s not only us who needs to know. Everybody needs to know. 2021 for an F1 team starts in eight months. That’s where it starts, because if a new regulation starts, you need to get ready. You need to start to plan how many resources next year you put already into 2021. It’s not 2021 like in a normal industry, where it starts in the third quarter of 2020. We start next year. The second quarter you need to know.

In terms of Haas’ long-term future as well, are you looking at bringing on more partners to work with moving forward? Are there more that you’re talking to in order to help the team?

GS: Yeah, you’re always looking. I think with the job you’re doing on the track, we’re getting more attractive as well for people, and we have credibility. If you go back to the beginning when Gene Haas said what he was going to do, he’s done everything which he said he was going to do. As much as we are critiqued, we always came up with what we did. How many naysayers were there in the beginning? “This will never happen, this is another failed project, it will never work how you’re doing it.” I still can hear it, and I respect all these people’s opinions, but we’ve proven them wrong. I’m not here to prove people wrong, but we proved that we do what we say we do, and that’s mainly Gene. If you say something, and if you say this is what we’re going to do, normally we do it.

Romain said the same thing about you, actually, that everything you’ve said to him has come true!

GS: Yes, that is how I work as well in life. If you do what you say you do, you get respect, and you get it done by the way. If you say it and then have 'I won’t do this I’ll do something different,' it’s not right. We’re always saying: 'This is where we’re going to do, this is where we’re going to go, and this is what will happen,' and we always achieve that. I’m actually very happy with that.

Günther Steiner interview: The secrets to Haas F1's success

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