Michael Andretti - Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix - By_ Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

F1 News: Does Steiner departure open up Haas sale? (4th Update)

Gunther Steiner’s axing at Haas has triggered further speculation Andretti-Cadillac may acquire the embattled American Formula 1 team.

Related Article: Horner says GM vs. Ford battle would be great for F1 – why Andretti and Cadillac should team with Haas

“Is Gene Haas fed up with F1?” reads the headline at Italy’s Autosprint.

Steiner was told by the team’s billionaire owner between Christmas and New Year that his contract was not being extended, after Haas finished dead last in 2023.

The team also appears to be the only one in pitlane without an engine deal for the new regulations in 2026, as Haas and Ferrari potentially re-evaluate their technical partnership.

As the Steiner news broke, Ferrari figure Simone Resta was said to also be in the process of departing Haas.

“Is Haas a takeover candidate now?” wonders Michael Schmidt, the top journalist at Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “This could be a chance for Andretti to join F1 in 2025.”

Schmidt thinks the low-profile Gene Haas and Steiner fell out over their differing visions for the medium-term future, with the team owner sticking with the existing structure and the axed boss arguing for more funding.

Steiner’s successor is long-time Haas engineer Ayao Komatsu.

“What happens if Haas can’t turn things around?” Schmidt wonders. “At the moment, Gene Haas could achieve a sale price for his team that would recoup his investments.”

Regular Haas critic Ralf Schumacher, however, thinks the team now has a chance to improve in Steiner’s absence.

“The fish always rots from the head,” former Haas driver Mick Schumacher’s uncle told Auto Bild.

Top Red Bull consultant Dr Helmut Marko believes Steiner’s downfall is linked with his soaring popularity as a result of the Netflix series Drive to Survive.

“Anyone who becomes too popular through something like Netflix can fly high and then fall very quickly,” he told f1-insider.com.

“All I heard is that he wanted to convert his popularity into shares in the team. And owner Gene Haas didn’t like that idea. It is always the case in our sport that the team comes before the individual.

“Steiner became a victim of his popularity.”

Former Alpha Tauri boss Franz Tost added: “The pressure in Formula 1 is brutal. If mid-season development of a car doesn’t work, there will be someone to blame.”

January 12, 2024 

Speaking to Formula 1’s Official Website, Haas was discussing the matter of Steiner’s departure, and went on to talk about the future of his team, insisting there are no plans to offload the outfit.

“I didn’t get into F1 to sell [the team],” he said. “I did it because I wanted to race. Guenther [Steiner] had the same perspective. We’re not here to cash out, we want to race and be competitive. If you look at any team, historically, they have had a lot of good years and a lot of bad years.

“Surviving is one of the characteristics of getting better. As long as you can survive, you always have another year to prove your worthiness. This is a big change. Losing Guenther is going to cause the team to have to focus on other aspects. We will hopefully come out better for it,” he added.

Indeed, Steiner has done well to keep the team – that is always in need of cash injections – afloat, regardless of the on track results, and while the Haas F1 Team was founded on a different philosophy, with chassis being outsourced from Dallara, as well as much components as the rules allow, Haas claims it still is expensive, despite the $140-Million mandatory cost cap.

Gene Haas, Owner and Founder, Haas F1, and Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 during the British GP at Silverstone Circuit on Sunday July 03, 2022 in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)
Gene Haas, Owner and Founder, Haas F1, and Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 during the British GP at Silverstone Circuit on Sunday July 03, 2022 in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)

He said: “There is a perception we spend a lot less money; we’re usually within $10m of the budget limit. I just think we don’t do a very good job of spending that money.

“A lot of teams have had previous investments in their infrastructure, buildings, equipment and personnel. Our model was to outsource a lot of that. We spend a lot of money. We haven’t exceeded the cap but we’re pretty darn close to it.

“I just don’t think we’re doing a very good job of spending it in the most effective way,” the American maintained.

January 11, 2024 

Michael Andretti has made many attempts to buy the Haas F1 team and until now has been told it was not for sale.

However, as our sources told us (see below), things may have changed.

Now with the departure of Team Boss Guenther Steiner (see announcement below) and Technical Director Simone Resta, Gene Haas may have decided to sell the team, hence why both Steiner and Resta have departed, but he has not indicated so publically just yet.

In the interim, Director of Engineering Ayao Komatsu will replace Steiner.

Ayao Komatsu, Chief Engineer, Haas F1 Team
Ayao Komatsu, Chief Engineer, Haas F1 Team

Steiner has led the team since the American squad entered F1 in 2016. The Italian was F1’s third longest-serving team principal, behind Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff, and a popular figure in the sport after he took a starring role in Netflix’s Drive To Survive series.

After discussions between Steiner and owner Gene Haas over the winter, it was decided that Steiner would leave the organization with immediate effect.

His replacement Komatsu, 47, has worked with Haas since they debuted in F1 in 2016, starting as Chief Race Engineer and rising to Director of Engineering.

Haas say Komatsu will take responsibility for the team’s overall strategy, and ultimately on-track performance, with a brief to maximize the team’s potential through employee empowerment and structural process and efficiency.

With Komatsu focused on the on-track performance, Haas plans to recruit a European-based Chief Operating Officer who will look after all non-competition matters and departments, including areas such as HR, admin, finance, marketing and communications.

No work has started on Andretti’s new Headquarters in Indiana

On a cold rainy day in Indian Tuesday, we snapped this photo of the new Andretti Global Headquarters site in Fishers, Indiana. Perhaps no construction has started because Andretti really wants to buy an existing team - like Haas
On a cold, rainy day in Indiana Tuesday, we snapped this photo of the new Andretti Global Headquarters site in Fishers, Indiana. Perhaps no construction has started because Andretti really wants to buy an existing team – like Haas. The existing building shown was on the site and not part of Andretti Global’s plans.

Haas Press Release

Haas Management Announcement-386

December 28, 2023 

Former F1 driver and now Sky Sports F1 TV pundit, Martin Brundle has echoed some of the same concerns I outlined in the article below.

–by Mark Cipolloni–

In response to a fan’s question during a Sky F1 Q&A session, Brundle said: “With my TV cap on and my F1 fan cap on, I’d like to see another team and two more cars and drivers on the grid.

“Andretti is a great name, but on the other side of the coin they’ve never really built their own car, they haven’t really dominated IndyCar in recent years or any of the other categories.

“So it’s not given that just because it’s called Andretti, it’ll be competitive.

“I can understand why Formula 1 and the other teams are going: ‘Hang on a minute. F1 is in a very good place now, you can’t just join this club when we’ve gone through the years and the decades of losing money and putting lots of capital expenditure and huge amounts of budget into all this.’

“So I get it all. I think you have to look at it and say it’s Team A from America: can they put together a credible competition on the grid? And what do they bring to F1?

“I think you have to lose the emotion of the Andretti name and take a rational decision, but I would like to see more cars on the grid.”

Back to the idea of Andretti buying a team. My sources say the Haas team can be purchased, but their asking price is too high, given a big investment is also needed in the team to bring it up to a consistent mid-field team or better.

With that said, Andretti will spend at least $2 billion to start a team from scratch, and it will take 5 to 10 years of huge spending to make it competitive.  So perhaps buying Haas, even at an inflated price, still might be a better investment.

Should Andretti buy the Haas team, they could continue to use Ferrari engines until the Cadillac engine is ready in 2028.

December 17, 2023 

After a rigorous FIA evaluation and approval of the Andretti-Cadillac application to be the 11th F1 team, the FOM is not so sure. But why many ask?

–by Mark Cipolloni–

Most of the pushback by the ten existing teams is over money, not wanting to split the prize money pie 11 ways instead of 10, despite the large $200 million anti dilution entry fee Andretti must pay.

But is more than just the money to the ten existing teams.

Formula 1 is hitting on all 12-cyclinders right now, and it must be careful not to mess it up.  Imagine the black mark on the sport if the Andretti team couldn’t even meet the 107% qualifying rule and was told to go home each race weekend.

Starting a team from scratch in F1 is near impossible these days given the level of competition and the technology used in today’s F1.

Many in F1 fear Andretti is only fooling himself, thinking he can field a competitive F1 team when his team can’t even win consistently in lowly IndyCar.

IndyCar is mostly a spec series.  The insiders we have talked to say if Andretti can’t win many races in a series where he buys a car off the shelf and tweaks it, how are they going to be competitive when they have to design and build their own car?

Andretti must convince Formula One Management (FOM) they have a tactical plan that will make them somewhat competitive on-track, and a rock solid financial backing that will ensure their viability for years to come.

Hence, the FOM is right to ask Andretti a lot of questions to prove he understands what it is going to take to succeed.

Andretti says they already have a car in the Wind tunnel.

Prove it. What are the computer simulations showing for lap times?

Andretti says they already have hired a Technical Director and the design team is hard at work.

Prove it.

They had a deal to buy engines from Renault, but that deal expired. Who will supply engines to the team until 2028 when the Cadillac engine will be ready? Is there a new provisional deal in place?

Prove it.

Do they have enough staff to field both a factory team and a traveling team given the vast numbers of personnel needed to hire?

Prove it.

You want to build the car in the USA when a successful F1 car has never been built in the USA expect when Dan Gurney’s Eagle won a couple of F1 races way back in the 1960s?

1966 German GP - Dan Gurney gets air in his Eagle Ford
1966 German GP – Dan Gurney gets air in his Eagle Ford

Can Andretti really hire good people in the USA with F1 experience, and who understand the logistics required to manufacture and ship new pieces around the world weekly?

Prove it.

Who will be the team boss/principal? Does he have the F1 experience?

Prove it.

A question for FOM – do all 24 circuits have enough garage space for two more cars?

Prove it.  Do the tracks that don’t have design plans done and a contractor onboard to extend their garages?

What about Cadillac?

This latest application would see Andretti join the grid – in either 2025 or 2026, pending approval – outright through a partnership with General Motors and the Cadillac brand.

“One of the big things was ‘What does Andretti bring to the party?'” Michael Andretti said in January after the confirmed plans to become the 11th team.

“Well, we’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world with us now with General Motors and Cadillac.

“We feel that was the one box that we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now. I think we’ll be bringing a tremendous amount of support to Formula 1 and it’s hard for anyone to argue with that.”

However, the other teams expressed concerns the ‘partnership’ with GM was little more a branding exercise.

But those concerns would have surely been eased last month when GM confirmed they would build their own engine, which would power the Andretti cars from 2028.

But Cadillac has never designed an F1 engine. To think they can do it on their own is ludicrous. F1 is not IMSA or the WEC where Cadillac competes with mediocre success at best.

In this article, “Cadillac Whispers from Brixworth” I wrote back in May about the birdie whispering in my ear that Cadillac would team with Ilmor to design their engine.

Ilmor is owned by Roger Penske, a fellow IndyCar team owner and owner of the IndyCar series.  Penske needs no introduction, so I won’t go over all his accolades in motorsports, but it would make perfect sense for Cadillac to team with Ilmor on their F1 project just as parent company GM does on the Chevy IndyCar engine.

Has Cadillac struck a deal with Ilmor to make FOM comfortable that their engine will be competitive?

Prove it.

An Insult to Mario Andretti

IndyCar team owner and former Jaguar F1 team boss Bobby Rahal, was asked by Autoweek what he thought about the pushback for the Andretti team.

It’s such a cutthroat business as compared to motorsport here. It’s very much a closed society and in a lot of ways it was that way when I was in it. It’s just a different approach. You’ve got General Motors, for God’s sakes, wanting to go to Formula 1 and maybe it’s part of (F1’s) negotiations, which is to make the Andretti investors and General Motors pay even more than they already were willing to pay. But like I said, you’d think they’d be doing backflips to have Mario Andretti in the paddock area. And yet there doesn’t seem to be that much interest.

And it’s kind of an insult to Mario, frankly.

 “Let’s face it. When I was in Formula 1 with Jaguar (in 2001 as team principal), teams like Red Bull and Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz, they’re mature organizations that have tremendous payrolls in terms of the quality of people that work for these companies.

Look at back in the day, you had Toyota. The might of Toyota was in Formula 1 for a number of years, yet they didn’t succeed, which is pretty hard to imagine.

The access to personnel was one of the biggest challenges we faced at Jaguar, just because being the new team on the block and there probably was a lack of concern by some teams because they’ve been in the sport for 30-40 years and these guys are newbies.

Who’s going to want to leave to go to them when they can be with a team that’s won 15 World Championships or something else. The biggest challenge would be to find the right people.”


Everyone involved, including Andretti himself, knows it would be better to just buy an existing team.  But none are for sale.

Or maybe Andretti has not offered enough money. We are not privy to those discussions.

So, given the challenges of starting a new team from scratch, the FOM has every right to ask many questions of Andretti and to expect hard evidence in return.

The best scenario, given what we know now, is for the FOM to tell Andretti to forget about fielding a team in 2025 because:

  1. Why design and build a car for one year when there is a massive rule change coming for 2026 and 0.00% of the 2025 design will apply to 2026? It seems like a total waste of money.
  2. Waiting an extra year will give Andretti more time to hire the personnel needed and to build a proper factory like Aston Martin has done
  3. It would be better for Andretti to start in 2026 and be part of the negotiations with Liberty Media and sign on to the 2026 Concorde Agreement, i.e. be part of the commercial agreement with the other 10 teams.

We wish Michael Andretti and Cadillac good luck.  Just make sure you take the time to do it right, and don’t embarrass American race fans and fellow American competitors by falling flat on your face.

No one wants to hear the stuck up Europeans saying, “see, we told you so,” if you fail.

If you succeed, F1 in American will explode in popularity, as will the Andretti brand.

Don’t blow it.

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