Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (2024)

Guenther Steiner has left Haas with immediate effect ahead of the 2024 F1 season after the team's disappointing performances.

Ayao Komatsu has been promoted from director of engineering to team principal ahead of the new season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix - live on Sky Sports F1 from February 28 to March 2.

Steiner, who has been a star of Netflix's Drive to Survive series, has been in charge of Haas since the team joined F1 in 2016 but the American outfit have struggled in recent seasons and finished bottom of last year's Constructors' Championship.

Sky Sports News understands Steiner's contract was not renewed after it expired at the end of 2023 as the Italian and the team had different visions on the future.

"I'd like to start by extending my thanks to Guenther Steiner for all his hard work over the past decade and I wish him well for the future," said Haas owner Gene Haas.

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"Moving forward as an organisation it was clear we need to improve our on-track performances. In appointing Ayao
Komatsu as team principal we fundamentally have engineering at the heart of our management."

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Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (1)

Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft said: "Formula 1 has lost a massive character, a very popular character, and someone who transcended the sport somewhat.

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"He was number three team principal behind Christian Horner and Toto Wolff [in terms of publicity] and that's good for the sport that the fans want to associate themselves with a team like Haas because they really like what Guenther stands for. That's the underdog and taking it to the big boys.

"I hope he returns in another guise somewhere in the future."

Haas finished last in the Constructors' Championship in 2021 with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin as their drivers, before improving to eighth the following year, but fell to the back of the grid in 2023 despite the experience of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

Hulkenberg's seventh place in Australia was the highlight of last year for Haas, along with Magnussen's three 10th place finishes.

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Reacting to the surprise news on social media, the team's drivers posted messages of thanks to their departing team boss.

Magnussen, who originally drove for the team in 2017-2020 before returning in 2022, said that the years had "been both fun and tremendously challenging - but never boring", while Hulkenberg, who was handed a way back into an F1 race seat by Steiner last year, posted: "you're definitely a character... all the best!"

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Why has Steiner gone now and what void does his exit leave?

Craig Slater, Sky Sports News reporter: "Ultimately Gene Haas has pulled the trigger here and it's him not renewing Guenther's contract.

"There were divergent views on the way forward for the Haas team. I've been told Steiner desperately wanted significant investment in the factory in Banbury and on the general infrastructure of the team. He thought they had outgrown that facility and needed to invest a bit more to move the team forward. I've been told that Gene, and I will attempt to seek that end of it, wasn't not going to spend the money but wanted to see the team moving in the proper direction before he would spend heavily again on fresh equipment and expansion of the infrastructure at that Banbury base."

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David Croft, Sky Sports F1 commentator: "It is Gene Haas' team and Guenther Steiner was getting the lion's share of the attention and I'm sure that didn't go down hugely well with the team owner. But that's no reason to get rid of somebody, their performance on track last year might have been part of the picture as well.

"Great on a Saturday in terms of the way Nico Hulkenberg managed to get into the top 10 in qualifying, but part of the reason for their great qualifying performances undermined their performance on the track on a Sunday, so they would go backwards through the field. That, for an owner like Gene Haas, was probably not acceptable. Finishing bottom of the table, that is not what Gene Haas would want. So Guenther I think has paid the price for that."

Damon Hill, Sky Sports F1 pundit: "Guenther became a bit of a celebrity thanks to the famous Netflix series and the behind the scenes filming of him.

"He's a huge character. Very decisive, confident, and sure of what he's saying. Maybe this is part of the mix. He wants to win, I don't know what the real reason is for the departure, but it's a real loss to the sport. Fans liked him, he attracted people, he was controversial, he was outspoken but maybe didn't get the results that Gene Haas wanted."

Steiner's time in F1 comes to an end

Steiner worked in F1 long before Haas, first as managing director of Jaguar between 2001 and 2003, and during the early Red Bull years as technical operations director from 2005.

In 2016, Haas, led by Steiner, joined F1 and made an impact straight away as Romain Grosjean finished sixth in the team's first race.

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Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (2)

They finished eighth in the Constructors' Championship in their first two seasons and their best campaign came in 2018 where they ended the year in fifth.

Grosjean took fourth place at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix with Magnussen in fifth, which remains the team's best result. Steiner became a hit with F1 fans on Drive to Survive as his often flamboyant and outspoken character was loved by the new audience that learned more about the sport.

However, results on the track were largely disappointing for Haas from 2019 and Steiner's eight seasons in charge came to an end on Wednesday.

Haas Constructors' Championship history in F1

Year Position Points
2016 8th 29
2017 8th 47
2018 5th 93
2019 9th 28
2020 9th 3
2021 10th 0
2022 8th 37
2023 10th 12

"We have had some successes, but we need to be consistent in delivering results that help us reach our wider goals as an organisation," continued Haas.

"We need to be efficient with the resources we have but improving our design and engineering capability is key to our success as a team. I'm looking forward to working with Ayao and fundamentally ensuring that we maximise our potential - this truly reflects my desire to compete properly in Formula 1."

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Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (3)

A big challenge ahead for Komatsu

Komatsu has been involved in motorsport since 2003, first with British American Racing (BAR), Renault and Lotus then Haas.

He was Grosjean's race engineer at Lotus during the Frenchman's most successful years in F1 during 2012 and 2013.

When Grosjean joined Haas in 2016, Komatsu followed as his chief race engineer. The 47-year-old will now oversee all competition elements of the business as team principal including the team's overall strategy and on-track performance.

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Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (4)

A European-based chief operating officer will also be appointed to manage all non-competition matters and departments at Haas' Banbury facility.

"I'm naturally very excited to have the opportunity to be team principal at MoneyGram Haas F1 team," stated Komatsu.

"Having been with the team since its track debut back in 2016 I'm obviously passionately invested in its success in Formula 1. I'm looking forward to leading our program and the various competitive operations internally to ensure we can build a structure that produces improved on-track performances.

"We are a performance-based business. We obviously haven't been competitive enough recently which has been a source of frustration for us all.

Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (5)

"We have amazing support from Gene and our various partners, and we want to mirror their enthusiasm with an improved on-track product. We have a great team of people across Kannapolis, Banbury and Maranello and together I know we can achieve the kind of results we're capable of."

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Guenther Steiner: Haas team principal leaves ahead of 2024 F1 season as Ayao Komatsu named as replacement (2024)
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