Nobody wants to be tenth!


Guenther Steiner dismisses claims that Haas might effectively write-off the next two seasons ahead of the 2026 rules overhaul.

Among the most vociferous in terms of why Andretti shouldn't be given the all-clear to enter F1 is Haas team boss, Guenther Steiner, even though many wonder what exactly is the point of his team being there.

Having slipped back to tenth in the standings for the second time since it entered the sport in 2016, a far cry from 2018 when it reached the dizzying heights of fifth, the American team appears to be in limbo.

Despite its denials, we know for a fact that up until not that long ago Gene Haas was looking to sell the team, insisting that he would rather shut down the operation completely than give it away for silly money.

However, in the wake of the 'pandemic boost' the sport was given by Drive to Survive - Steiner among those to achieve almost overnight stardom - when teams are valued at silly money, Haas has obviously, and understandably, chosen to think again.

However, while he waits around for someone to come along and make the right offer, it appears the decision has been taken not to invest too much more into the exercise.

While tyre degradation was an obvious factor throughout 2023, the fact is that upgrades to the VF-23 were practically non-existent.

Unlike a number of its rivals Haas will not return to the drawing board for the VF-24 indeed Steiner, looking at the team's relationship with Ferrari and Dallara, claims that progress can be made with small changes, which has led to fears that the American outfit might seek to ride out the storm for the next two seasons until the 2026 rules overhaul.

"Nobody wants to be 10th!" he tells RACER. "You feel the pressure, obviously, because you want to do better. If I didn't feel the pressure then I would be happy with that, and I'm for sure not happy with where we are.

"I think what we need is to work hard and find the performance on the car so that we can get better," he adds, "we know we can do it because we have done it before.

"We did this analysis of what we need to do. I think at the moment where we are is actually a help to move forward again, because you can rely on what we have got and what we have done before.

"If we now try to do everything ourselves, normally when you would do such a big step you have to make a step backward to do two forward, so the risk would be even bigger to be worse off than we are now for the short term.

"Obviously the mid and long term is a different story," he admits, "but at the moment we need to get out of the hole in the short term in my opinion to show what we can do, and then we can think, 'Could we allow ourselves to make a step backwards?' But if you make a step backwards now, where do we end up?

"So at the moment we need to be patient and conscious and work with this business concept we are using now, with this model, and just try to get back to where we were a few years ago."

Ironically, at the height of the pandemic, Haas took the bold decision to stop all development of its 2021 contender and focus purely on the rules overhaul of 2022. It was a gamble that paid off, for the team improved to eighth.

However, the Italian insists that such a strategy will not work this time around.

"You never want to do that," he insists, "you cannot allow yourself to even think about that. It's not like I can go out there and say, 'Yeah, we've decided for two years we will definitely finish 10th'.

"We have done that before when we were struggling in the COVID years; we cannot do that and we do not want to do that because we have also a responsibility to all the people who work here who put a lot of effort in to move forward.

"We just need to push that we do what we did before. We always were the smallest team and finished very well. It's not like it's just now; the last three or four years there was no bad team in Formula 1, they were all very good. Everything is getting closer and closer together. I go back to the Brazilian qualifying, from P1 to P20 in Q1 there was around 0.8s... 0.8s is nothing.

"So it's just like that little bit and that little more can move you quite a bit."

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Published: 12/01/2024
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