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Guenther Steiner Q&A: Haas are points contenders here - and everywhere!

29 Apr 2016

Relying heavily - but perfectly legally - on parts supplied by, among others, Ferrari, Haas have come into Formula One racing in their own unique style - and have made quite a splash. After points in their first two races and something of a reality check in the third, where now for the new American squad? We caught up with team principal Guenther Steiner for an exclusive chat to find out...

Q: Guenther, the first two races were fairy tale like - then China brought the team back down to earth. How would you sum up the short F1 history of Haas so far?

Guenther Steiner: The first two races were probably really fairy tale like - in any case they’ve been over performing. China indeed was a bit underperforming, but we know why. There have been some issues and we’ve addressed them. I would say that China is not our standard - it was definitely a drop in performance and I think we’ll get back here to where we should be. We know that P5 or P6 is not always achievable, but my belief is that if in a race everything goes to plan we can always walk away with points.

Q: Hand on heart, had you in your wildest dreams imagined that Haas would make such a big impression? What was your best-case scenario before the first race?

GS: Well, of course it was incredible to see that we can keep the pace of the good midfield contenders - and even better. Yes, in Australia we were hoping for points from the very beginning due to the nature of the track. P5 was fantastic - but what wasn’t fantastic there, and in Bahrain, was that Esteban (Gutierrez) was not finishing. In China both cars finished and in that respect China was a silver lining. Of course we didn’t finish in the positions we wanted, but the most important thing for us right now is to show progress - then we are fine. Right now that is paramount for us.

Q: Can you explain why China didn’t work for you? Neither in qualifying nor in the race.

GS: The whole weekend we couldn’t find the right set-up. Maybe we tried too hard to be good. With Esteban’s car we had issues in FP1 and FP2 - so there was no real testing - and FP3 was wet, so no real mileage for both drivers. That left us a bit lost - or not lost, but not where we should have been. But both cars finished the race. So sometimes the bad makes some good! (laughs)

Q: What can you say about your two drivers? Of course you had your expectations, but where have those been met and where do you still need to squeeze more out of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez?

GS: I think they performed how they should do. Some said that Romain over-performed, but I don’t think that. Romain had several podium finishes in the past - that’s why we took him: because he knows how to do it! He will guide us. He will be something where we can judge ourselves on. And Esteban was for two years with Sauber - so he also knows F1 cars - and he was performing perfectly when the car was doing what it should have been doing. So both performed at the level where they normally are - and nothing less did we expect.

Q: The Haas concept of an F1 team has no doubt left some smaller established teams wondering about their future direction. Is Haas 'living the future' for private teams?

GS: That is very difficult to answer, as I have no idea what other teams do. But in the end they all make their own decision of how they run their teams. If they see that we are a good role model - and see that everybody can do it when they find a partner - why not? Feel free to do it. It’s within the regulations. Maybe one or the other considers our model. We will see.

Q: You are very much connected to Ferrari. How independent are you? Is Maranello interfering in your strategies?

GS: We are very independent. There are clearly defined regulations on what you can or can’t do. We can buy all the mechanical parts from them - which we do - but the aero development we do on our own. So they don’t know what we are doing. And obviously they don’t want to know. And business-wise they leave us completely alone. They don’t interfere. We have a good relationship, but that’s it. There is no data exchange or strategy exchange.

Q: Haas have no title sponsor and, as a new team, no TV money yet. Is your financial forecast still healthy?

GS: Gene (Haas) wants to expose his brand Haas Automation - and this works pretty well. And regarding our financial situation we are perfectly in our plan.

Q: After that impressive start, are sponsors already lining up?

GS: We are talking with people, but nothing is immediate in the making - and there is no rush from our side. We knew what we are doing before we entered – and a good plan is not getting destructed so easily.

Q: How was the feedback in the US? Are Haas becoming the spearhead of a new chapter for F1 racing in the US?

GS: I think we’ve created a lot of interest, but to manage a turn-around will take years. But, of course, hopefully we can be the people who make it happen.

Q: Two years ago you had nothing: no team, no car, no power unit - and now you are P5 in the standings. In hindsight is there anything you would have done differently?

GS: Little things, yes, but in no way anything big - nothing where I could say: if we’d done it that way we would be great now. It is live and learn. But if after two years’ learning I wouldn’t do it a bit better I would be dumb! (laughs) We are pretty happy and our worst fears - that we could be an embarrassment - didn’t happen. Embarrassment - that would have been the worst.

Q: Is Gene happy with how everything has gone so far?

GS: I think only he can answer that. But I am sure he is not unhappy. Probably it all looks a bit too easy - and we know that the setback will probably come…

Q: What’s the outlook for the season? The start was glorious - what about the next 18 races?

GS: I see us somewhere in the middle. Getting in the points when not all cars are finishing. We can always be a contender for points. Can we consistently finish P5 or P6? No way. We know that. We want to show good performance and be respected. P5 in the constructors’ championship will not stay - even though it is a fantastic picture to look at the table. It almost makes me dizzy! (laughs) But we will defend that position with everything we’ve got.