A CHAT WITH GUNTHER STEINER
The former technical brains of Red Bull on the challenges of returning to F1 as team principal of new-for-2016 Haas F1
Hello Gunther. Long time no see. When were you last a part of Formula 1?
It was 2006, with Red Bull.
What’s it like being involved in an F1 launch project? It’s good, otherwise I wouldn’t have got involved. Having spent the past eight years in the US [working in NASCAR] it’s exciting to have somebody like Gene Haas who wants to do this. We will do it right, as good as we can, to make it successful. It’s important for the sport, it’s important for the United States. F1 is a big sport and it’s a big country. It’s exciting, you know? Can you do better than some of the other teams that have tried to take part in Formula 1 from the US? Well, we know what we are going to do. I wouldn’t say there were a lot of teams that didn’t do it right, because there have been some US teams that weren’t unsuccessful – I mean, not like Ferrari, but teams that were okay. We know in the beginning we cannot win, but we won’t be an embarrassment. You plan to be partly European-based, partly American-based, don’t you? That’s right. We’ll have a technical partner to help with the components, so our development time and engineering force will be smaller than if we were doing it ourselves. But we will have headquarters in the US, where we have the Windshear windtunnel, which is one of the best moving-floor wind tunnels in the world. It’s set up to run full-scale models, which aren’t allowed in F1, so we’re adapting it to run smaller-scale models. Sixty per cent is the largest permitted by the F1 regulations.
We will have the factory there, we will have a composite department and machine shops, but we will get a lot of parts from our technical partner [ F1 Racing is speaking to Steiner in the Ferrari motorhome…] so there’s a lot we don’t need to make.
The UK part of the business will be the race team. Yes, it’s split up, but we’re clear about who’s doing what. We want to get the best we can from the UK, while building up our team in the United States.
You’re aiming to enter F1 in 2016. What will you have in the UK by then? A shop, all the equipment, the trucks, the motorhome, the shipping containers. We’ll also have offices for the race engineers and the mechanics to rebuild the cars. But the IT, engineering and aerodynamics infrastructure will all be in the US.
How extensive will your technical partnership be? To qualify as constructors, we have to make the chassis ourselves. The bodywork, too. All the rest we can buy elsewhere, or partner up with someone.
So… will you have a red partner? We will tell you that soon. It could be. Haas are technical sponsors of Ferrari – you can see the decal on the car – so the possibilities are high.
If winning is out of reach at first, what’s your target? It’s hard to be in the midfield because there are some good teams out there. So our aim is between eighth and tenth to try to score some points.
What about drivers? We’re talking about it in terms of possibilities, because those decisions are too far away. This time next year we will speak seriously about it – not now. Is the American aspect of Haas F1 important? Will the team feel American? Yes. Gene doesn’t want to be over the top, but he runs a successful American business and the F1 team should be similar in terms of how it runs. That’s his aim. But we won’t have stars and stripes everywhere.
How did you and Gene get together? We met a few years ago and talked over some ideas – for example running a third car for a team. Last year, Gene said: “What do we need to do to make this happen?” and we decided to nd a technical partner from an established team, then went to get a licence. We have been talking about this for more than three years now and Gene knows what he’s doing.
What’s Gene Haas like? He’s an interesting character. He’s quite easy-going – but not easy to describe in a couple of sentences.
It must be quite a thrill to be involved in an F1 start up… It’s very exciting – a big responsibility which I’m not afraid to take – but how many times can you ever do something like this in your life?