Q: “This is a different kind of question than you usually answer here, but I’d like to hear your opinion. What do you think of Guenther Steiner and how he manages the Haas F1 team?”
A: Well, I don’t know Guenther Steiner personally, and he might be a wonderful person, so I’ll only comment on the second part of your question – how he manages the Haas F1 team.
Steiner has become a bit of a star because of how he talks and is presented on Drive to Survive.
I think he’s a toxic.
He seems to believe that yelling, threatening, and using at least two F-bombs in every sentence is a way to motivate people, especially drivers. What he’s really done is hurt the careers of more than a few drivers, with Mick Schumacher one of them.
At this stage it’s hard to believe that Mick has the same abilities as his father, but I strongly believe that he was capable of far more when driving for Haas. I really hope he gets an honest shot with Mercedes at some point (although his timing in terms of open seats doesn’t look good).
Threatening a driver with being replaced in a team, and that they need to be faster while never crashing a car is rarely what’s best for their performance. There are rare exceptions when this doesn’t hurt the situation, but even then it may not be the best.
Right now, don’t think about a pink elephant. Do not think about a pink elephant. I said, don’t think about a pink elephant! Stop f***ing thinking about a pink elephant!
What do you think is going through a driver’s mind after being told to not crash? And not just told, but f***ing told in a very loud voice? Right, crash.
Tell a child to not do something, especially something that impacts a sibling, and it’s not hard to predict what they’re going to do. Tell them to do something else (especially if you’re able to physically give them the resources to do it), and there’s a good possibility that they’ll do it instead of, let’s say, picking on their sister.
Drivers are just older children!
Telling them what not to do is far less effective than telling them what to do,
There are people in the world that seem to perform well no matter how they’re treated, but there are far more that need some level of comfort, and knowing they’re trusted and believed in. One way of being is no better than the other, just different.
You may be surprised at just how many top-level pro drivers need that comfort, that trust, that sense of “We believe in you.” They have egos, emotions, and they have self-doubt. They’re human, and to think otherwise would be silly.
Guenther Steiner does not bring out the best in his drivers. If I was Gene Haas, I’d replace him immediately. In fact, I’d have replaced him within weeks of having hired him, after seeing the way he interacts with the drivers. I can’t comment on how he manages the other people who report to him, but I can’t help but believe there are some similarities between his team management and driver management styles (management by fear). It also makes me wonder what Mr. Haas’s management style is.
To be fair, I suspect Steiner would consider my driver management and coaching style to be wrong, too.
Great managers find a way to bring out the best in everyone around them. Steiner doesn’t do that. And with his starring role on Drive to Survive, his appearance as a color commentator on other races, and now his own book, it seems that he’s more interested in what’s best for Steiner than what’s best for his drivers. If it was up to me, he’d be a Haas-been.