Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner On Series' Appeal, Esteban Gutiérrez
Haas F1 will become the first U.S.-based team to compete in the motorsports series in more than 30 years when it takes the grid in March. The team established a technical partnership with Ferrari and commissoned Italy-based Dallara to build the car for '16. It also recently unveiled its lead driver for next season, Frenchman Romain Grosjean. The team was founded by NASCAR co-Team Owner Gene Haas, who hopes F1's global exposure will benefit his machine tool brand Haas Automation. Haas put motorsports veteran Guenther Steiner in charge of the new team. Steiner brings nearly 30 years of experience in the industry, including rally, F1 and NASCAR, to the team. He recently spoke with SBD Global about getting ready for year one, expecations, F1's appeal and the potential of a Mexican driver.
Q: With only six months left until the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, what are the most important steps between now and then to get the car on the grid at Albert Park?
Guenther Steiner: The most important thing is to get the best possible people hired for the race team, and to get them to work together as best as possible in a short time.
Q: Does being Ferrari’s de facto B-team lead to higher expectations at Haas F1 than those of other newcomers in the past?
Steiner: We are not a Ferrari B Team. We stand on our own two feet, but we work closely with a very good and experienced technical partner in Ferrari. Our expectations are to perform respectfully, and I feel that the expectation/pressure is coming from our surroundings. I think we are ready to deal with it.
Q: There is concern in F1 about the financial state of smaller teams, with Sauber and Force India filing a complaint with the EU accusing the series of "unfair competition." Do you see Haas F1 being impacted by those issues next season?
Steiner: Right now, we are not involved in any of this as our entry for 2016 will be only accepted in November. We’re focused on what we can control. We plan to make our program as secure as possible and go from there.
Q: Haas F1 publicly stated that its second driver will be a Ferrari reserve/test driver. How important would it be for the team to have a North American driver like Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez in terms of fans and sponsorships?
Steiner: It would be good for the sport to have a driver from North America.
Steiner: I do not see an advantage in having three locations, but for us and how we approach F1, this is the best solution.
Q: From a personal view, how do you see the current state of F1, and what has to change to make it more competitive and more appealing for fans, especially in the U.S.?
Steiner: I think using social media in a more extensive and better way would help, in general, and, specifically, in the U.S. to better engage fans. We also should make the cars faster and more exiting, and I think this will happen with the new technical regulations for 2017.