Whether you are die-hard fans of Formula 1 or follow the world of fast single-seaters only casually, you have certainly not missed the name of Günther Steiner recently. The head of Haas became the darling of the public thanks to his unrefined speech and rumors that managed to become popular. He never took napkins with the riders of his stable, he always – unlike other bosses – called a spade a spade. The sudden information about his dismissal was even more surprising.
Steiner has had an extremely fruitful motoring career. He started in the World Rally Championship as a Mazda mechanic, only to move into management positions at the turn of the millennium and work for brands such as Prodrive or Ford. He worked closely with rally icons including Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz.
He got his first taste of the world of Formula 1 in 2001, when Niki Lauda himself lured him to the Jaguar Racing team as technical chief. In the 2002 season, however, the team did not succeed as expected, so there was a total restructuring of the team and his departure. Although he was offered another role in management, he turned it down.
Since 2005, as technical director, he helped launch the now successful Red Bull Racing team. Soon, however, the stable was full of famous names, so he moved to the United States to help Dietrich Mateschitz (co-owner of Red Bull) establish a NASCAR team there.
He returned to the queen of motorsport only in 2014, in April he was confirmed as the boss (and at the same time co-founder) of the newly established Gene Haas team. For Formula 1, it marked the first American team in 30 years, and the plans with Ferrari support were grandiose. The first season brought 29 championship points and eighth place in the championship. The most successful team was two years later – ninety-three points and fifth overall.
But the form gradually faded. In 2021, the team did not score a single point and finished last. A year later came a wave of improvement – 37 points and eighth place – which replaced last year’s slump again. Haas ran out of patience and announced on January 10 that Steiner would not continue as boss next season.
A native of Italy, he was every bit the idiosyncratic. He did not coddle the drivers, years ago he decided to make an unpopular decision and fire the young Mick Schumacher. The announcements with his typical accent (and often full of profanity, see below) are still iconic today. In the autumn of last year, his book Přežít a závodit was also published in the Czech language.
“There is a lot of talk about the pressure football coaches are under. Trust me, it’s nothing. The pressure is when you watch the car with your competitor crash into the barrier at 300 km/h and explode before your eyes…” says Steiner in the caption of the publication, describing Romain Grosjean’s fiery accident, which the Frenchman miraculously survived.
We will see where and if at all the seasoned engineer and boss will gather more motoring experience. However, the F1 world will miss his personality.