"It stung," admits Steiner


Following his shock sacking by Haas, Guenther Steiner admits that his biggest regret is not being able to say farewell to his former teammates.

Speaking for the first time since the announcement that he was out of the team with immediate effect after ten years at the helm, the Italian revealed that he was notified in the days between Christmas and New Year.

"It was a phone call from Gene Haas to me," the Italian told the audience at an exhibition in Birmingham. "I was in Italy on my Christmas break and he called me up between Christmas and New Year.

"Can I start with just something off for my side?" he added. "I didn't have the chance to say thank you to a few people when I left. I would just like to thank all the team members who I couldn't give a proper goodbye to when I left. So I'll do it this way...

"I want to say also to all the fans who supported us while I was there, it's fantastic, thank you to everybody for the support I got and I am getting, so I'm mega appreciative.

"It stung," he sighed, "but they all know me and they all know that I appreciate what they did. It's always best to say it to them, it would be nice to say, 'hey guys, thanks for what you did for the team'."

Asked about team owner Gene Haas' admission that he was embarrassed the team hadn't performed better, what with its stromg ties to Ferrari, Steiner said: "I think everybody can choose his words but you need to think about the people which work for you and put a lot of effort in. Obviously, when you say these things in the end you have to live with the consequences."

The Italian admits that the sport has changed since Haas entered F1and that the team's way of going about things may be out-dated now.

"Since we have had this model, Formula 1 has changed a lot," he said. "We saw during Covid how much bigger it grew. How much different it got with the budget cap, how we used the budget cap.

"If you look at all the other teams, they were all gearing up. They are not gearing up now. They started to gear up, some three years ago, some years ago, some last year."

Indeed, he hints at lack of investment and planning were a key issue.

"Since the budget cap came into place, a lot of teams, all of the teams, invested in the infrastructure. Therefore it is not spending money, it is investing to use the budget cap, the operational budget cap, as best as possible that you can put money in to make the car go quick. Some people started straight away in 2020, 2021. Some people started last year, but everybody is doing it. I think that was one of the things. I look at the other ones and I suggest what needs and should be done."

"I don't know Gene's plans for the future. He didn't share them with me. He doesn't have to, by the way. I'm actually not really interested in it anymore. I think without me in 2020 it wouldn't have been around anymore.

"But Gene owns the team so in the end he's free to do what he wants. I cannot accuse him of anything. I can accuse him but it doesn't do anything because he can make his decisions, he is free to decide. I am actually fine, my life will continue. I will have fun, I will stay around. Something will pop up. I'm doing good. In the end a good period in my life came to an end, but maybe an even better one starts."

Asked if his increasing popularity, having been one of the true stars of Drive to Survive, written a book and featured on countless T-Shirts, could have been an added problem for the team, he said: "Not really... but thinking back now, it could have.

"But in the end that celebrity gave the team a lot of exposure, brought in very good sponsors like MoneyGram because they liked that because they could use that. There are always positives and negatives to any deal so maybe there were some positives and somebody brought up the negatives.

"These are things you cannot always plan for because I was not out there trying to look for celebrity. It happened to me and only the people who know me know that, so I'm ok with that.

"I didn't get up in the morning to be a celebrity. I get up in the morning to work. But I think it worked a lot in favour of the team because without that maybe it would have been closed before."

Asked about his plans for the future, he said: "I have got still a lot in me, but I am not in a hurry. I am not desperate. I want to enjoy now my time with my family.

"Good things will come," he added. "I always say: one door closes, at least two other ones open. So I will wait which ones open and obviously pick the right one to do the next thing.

"But at the moment I want to sit back and look a little bit and do things I missed to do the last ten years like staying with my family and doing some travel in my own time... and watch F1."

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Published: 16/01/2024
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