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Boardroom Q&A: Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team Principal

As the 2022 F1 campaign comes to a close, Boardroom speaks with the inimitable Guenther Steiner about progress at Haas, growing Formula 1 in the US, and his own breakout stardom.

If you’re a fan of Formula 1, you probably love Guenther Steiner. You’ve been loving Guenther Steiner.

The longtime principal of the Haas F1 team helped bring an American constructor back to F1 for the first time in 30 years. A breakout star on Netflix‘s Drive To Survive, Guenther has helped Haas improve from zero points in the Constructors’ Championship standings last year to 37 with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher behind the wheel this year, good for eighth in the standings. Niko Hulkenberg will replace Schumacher at Haas in 2023 as the team looks to build on this season’s momentum as F1 finishes its current campaign this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Earlier this month, Boardroom caught up with the 57-year-old Steiner in Las Vegas as F1 was promoting next year’s Grand Prix along the Vegas strip. The fan favorite discussed the state of Formula 1 in the US, the Las Vegas race, Haas’ future prospects, and his immense popularity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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SHLOMO SPRUNG: Why have you been such a big proponent of the Las Vegas race?

GUENTHER STEINER: I think it’s just a cool place to be and it’s a cool place to have a race. With increasing interest in F1 in the United States, it’s good to have a third race here because if the people want to see F1, this is a very good place to come to. There’s a lot of things to do, and to put that together with an F1 race, I don’t think there are many better places to do so.

SS: What does a third race in the US mean for the sport?

GS: Our title sponsor next year will be MoneyGram, and we have Haas Automation as our owner and sponsor, so they’re both American companies and they can bring their customers here. We can create more interest for the fans because we have a good fan base now in the United States being the American team. So, there are just positives for us and we can just grow our awareness. Obviously, we need to have good results as well, and that’s what we are working on, but otherwise, it’s great for Haas to have three races in the US.

SS: How has being America’s team helped you guys in recent months and years given the increased interest in F1 stateside?

GS: It helped a lot with MoneyGram. For example, they became aware of Formula 1 and how big it is in the world because MoneyGram’s business in the world is 75% globally and only 25% in the US, but they are a US company. They want to join up with the Haas race team and send a message to the world that there’s no better way to do it than with the American F1 team, which is racing all over the world. In most of the countries that we race, they’ve got business.

SS: How would you evaluate the team’s success in 2022?  

GS: Medium. We could have done better, we could have done worse. It was a little bit of a roller coaster of ups and downs, but we had two tough seasons behind us. 2020 and 2021 were very tough for us and we understand why they were tough. Coming back in Formula 1, you have to expect an uphill battle. We now need to stabilize ourselves again and just keep on getting better and better. But from last year to this year, it was a nice improvement. 

SS: How do you guys plan to push things forward in 2023?

GS: By just making a better car, doing things better, and turning the lessons learned from this year into positives.

SS: When you look around here and see all these fans along the Las Vegas strip, did you ever envision seeing anything like this in the sport?

GS: No. When I first heard about the Las Vegas race, it must have been about a year ago. I was on the strip and wondered how you’re going to race cars there. But Vegas can make it happen, as we see today. The race is in a year. Look how many people are already here, how many fans showed up here just for promoting the event, which is fantastic. So, we can imagine what it will be next year, and if somebody can make it happen, I think it’s Vegas.

SS: What are the pros and cons of having a Saturday night race along the strip as opposed to Sunday afternoon?  

GS: I’m happy with the races on a Sunday afternoon. They’re perfect and everything, but sometimes having something different, something which has not been done before, I think that’s cool and what we always try to achieve. It keeps people’s interest in things. If we are doing just more of the same all the time, that doesn’t create an interest. [Sunday is] just more of the same, So having something on a Saturday night in Vegas on the strip, that is really something different.

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SS: What surprised you the most about how popular F1 has gotten here in the States?   

GS: I don’t know what surprised me most; it’s just how engaged the fans get. Once they got interested and seeing how engaged they are, how they look into the details, what is happening, it’s fantastic. 

SS: What about your personal popularity in the US, especially since Drive To Survive?

GS: I don’t know [laughs].

SS: You’re a popular guy.

GS: Yeah, I know that I’m popular, but I think it’s good. It’s good for F1. In general, it shows how interested people are and obviously creates more work, but it’s work which I enjoy to do, which I don’t mind to do, because without the fans we are nobodies. We need fans who like to watch us for one reason or another.

SS: What’s the biggest thing that you and Haas want to achieve before you guys go racing here in Vegas next year?

GS: What we want to achieve is just having good results, so getting here with a good car and good drivers next year and just having good results. 

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