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Guenther Steiner’s Sudden Haas F1 Departure Could Spell Money Trouble

Given Steiner's clout on TV, social media, and even at the tracks, this may not sit well with sponsors.

Despite becoming a sort of TV celebrity thanks to his belligerent rants on Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive, Guenther Steiner has been shown the door at the Haas Formula 1 Team. Announced Wednesday afternoon, director of engineering Ayao Komatsu will be stepping up to the role of team principal effective immediately.

Steiner’s departure is hardly a shock given the tension between him and team owner Gene Haas over the 2023 season’s performance. The squad’s slide to 10th place in the constructors’ championship meant it received even less award money than in previous years, so the rest would have to come either from Haas himself or team sponsors. These not-insignificant problems likely led to Steiner’s contract not being renewed at the end of the year.

That said, there are several reasons why Steiner’s ousting is a big surprise, and it all has to do with his newfound TV stardom. Without Steiner’s popularity as the loudmouthed, F-Bomb-dropping team boss with the funny accent, no one would know who he is, and Haas would have even fewer fans. No silly posterboards, no funny t-shirts, no fans obsessing over a C-tier F1 team and its weird boss.

This odd obsession brought in eyeballs, and in F1, eyeballs can help pay the bills. Sponsors like MoneyGram, Palm Angels, Chipotle, and the team’s other “trendy” sponsors enjoyed the spotlight Steiner commanded—especially in the team’s home country, which now hosts three races. Unless Komatsu can replicate that kind of buzz on TV, social media, and at the track, Haas F1 will fall even further into irrelevance. And if the team’s failure to score points continues, they will all stop making those vital sponsorship payments Haas needs to survive.

“People were coming up to the table in the middle of dinner and wanting a photo, and they were just giddy to see him. And he’s so funny, so genuine. He’s like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on!” MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes told in a 2023 interview.

“To see that star effect that he has, and how that comes across, that’s who he is. And I think that genuineness really shows through. And for us to also be able to attach our brand to his is very special,” Holmes added.

Komatsu is no rookie and has a mild shot at running a successful operation. Having joined the team in its maiden season in 2016, the 47-year-old Japanese engineer has also put in stints at British American Racing and Renault. His success will greatly depend on what kind of relationship he already has with Daddy Haas, as well as the new incoming Chief Operating Officer who will help him run all non-competing aspects of the team.

I wonder if Steiner “f***ing slammed [Gene’s] office door” on his way out.

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