Guenther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team in the FIA Formula One World Championship, has accepted that challenge multiple times in a nearly 30-year motorsports career that has taken him across the globe. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Build a championship-caliber team.
Steiner began his professional career in rallying, where in 1986 he joined Mazda Rally Team Europe as a mechanic. It was a pivotal year for the Brussels, Belgium-based team as the organization made the jump from racing a Mazda RX-7 in Group B of the World Rally Championship to Group A where they prepared to run the new Mazda 323 four-wheel drive car.
Steiner and his team of seven were tasked to build one of the team’s two Group A Mazda 323s. By 1987, in just their second season competing in Group A, Steiner and his team led Finnish driver Timo Salonen to his first win in the Swedish Rally, which was only the second race of the season. Salonen finished the season 14th in the Driver World Championship and helped the team to a sixth-place finish in the Manufacturers World Championship. In 1988, in his final season with Mazda Rally Team Europe, Salonen finished fifth in the Driver World Championship with the team finishing fourth in the Manufacturer World Championship.
Steiner moved from mechanic to assistant team manager when he joined Top Run Srl in January 1989. For Top Run Srl, based in Varese, Italy, Steiner was responsible for organizing and running private entrants in various rally championships with Group N cars. Belgian driver Grégoire De Mévius finished runner-up in Group N of the World Rally Championships driving a Mazda 323 in both the 1989 and 1990 seasons under the direction of Steiner and his team.
Following his success in the Group N division of the World Rally Championship with Top Run Srl, Steiner moved to Milan, Italy, to join Jolly Club Spa as the head of reconnaissance for the Group A team during the 1991 and 1992 World Rally Championship seasons. The Jolly Club Spa teams campaigned Lancia Delta Integrale 16Vs and helped Lancia win the Manufacturers World Championship in both seasons.
By 1994, Steiner was Jolly Club Spa’s technical manager, responsible for all technical aspects of the two Ford Escort RS Cosworth teams that competed in Group A of the World Rally Championship. Italian driver Gianfranco Cunico and co-driver Stefano Evangelisti went on to win back-to-back Italian Rally Championships in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, Cunico teamed with Pierangelo Scalvini to score the team’s third straight Italian Rally Championship.
Steiner moved to Banbury, Oxfordshire, U.K., in 1997 to join Prodrive as the team manager for its Allstar Rally Team. Steiner led the new team to the European Championship in just its first season with driver Krzysztof Holowczyc.
After his one year with Prodrive, Steiner was recruited to join M-Sport in Millbrook, Bedfordshire, U.K., as the project manager for the team’s Ford Focus fleet that competed in the World Rally Championship. By the middle of 1998, Ford chose M-Sport to design and build its new Ford Focus World Rally Car. Steiner began taking more of a leadership role to establish technical facilities and assume overall management of the new car’s development. Steiner found new offices and workshops, recruited 10 engineers, five technicians and developed the new car in eight months and, most importantly, within budget.
The new car appeared in 1999 with British driver Colin McRae and immediately grabbed headlines for recording the fastest stage times during the Monte Carlo Rally – the new team’s first event. M-Sport scored its first World Rally Championship victory in its third event of the season at the Safari Rally in Kenya. A month later, McRae scored his second win in a row at the Rally of Portugal. Steiner led the team to a fourth-place finish in the Manufacturer World Championship and McRae finished sixth in the Driver World Championship.
Following the 1999 World Rally Championship, Steiner was promoted to director of engineering for M-Sport. He took on an increased leadership role as he moved the team into a new headquarters to better integrate all the technical staff responsible for the development of the Ford Focus World Rally Car. In 2000, Steiner worked with McRae and Spanish driver Carlos Sainz to finish second overall in the Manufacturer World Championship, while Sainz finished third and McRae fourth in the Driver World Championship.
In 2001, the M-Sport Ford Focus teams led by Steiner again finished second in the Manufacturer World Championship. McRae finished second in the Driver World Championship, trailing fellow British driver Richard Burns by just two points in the series championship. Sainz finished 11 points behind Burns and sixth overall.
Following the 2001 season, Steiner’s managerial and technical talent caught the eye of Formula One champion Niki Lauda, who recruited him to join Jaguar Racing as the team’s managing director. Steiner oversaw the restructuring of the team and implemented efficiencies and budget cuts in advance of the 2002 season. Steiner’s drivers that year were Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa, and the highlight of the 2002 season came when Irvine finished third in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
A management shakeup within Jaguar Racing following the 2002 season caused Steiner to take a gardening leave. He missed the entire 2003 season before joining Opel Performance Center, a division of the German Automobile manufacturer Adam Opel AG, in Bobingen, Germany in November 2003. As technical director, Steiner was responsible for the technical and manufacturing side of the business and while there, led another technical reorganization aimed at creating a streamlined structure for the future. Part of Steiner’s responsibilities kept him close to the racetrack where he led all team engineers.
Another Formula One opportunity was presented to Steiner in February 2005 when he joined Red Bull Racing as the technical operations director. Steiner’s vast experience in managing people was again put to the test when he directed all the technical aspects of the Formula One team. He managed a group of more than 350 people and a budget in excess of $200 million. Red Bull Racing purchased the former Jaguar team that Steiner worked for from 2001 until 2003 and put him back in charge of the restructuring process he had started a few years earlier.
As Red Bull Racing got up and running and moved in a positive direction, Steiner was shifted to another Red Bull Racing project – the formation of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team in Mooresville, North Carolina.
The move to the United States presented Steiner with yet another opportunity to build a championship-caliber team from the ground up. In April 2006, starting with a clean sheet of paper and no employees or equipment, Steiner built Team Red Bull into an organization that employed more than 200 people with a budget in excess of $50 million.
Steiner left Team Red Bull in April 2008 but remained in Mooresville. He founded FibreWorks Composites in January 2009, where the high-tech carbon-composites design and manufacturing company specializes in racecar development.
When Gene Haas began exploring the logistics of creating a Formula One team, he tabbed Steiner to lead the effort. Now the man who has been building throughout his racing career is in charge of building the first American-led Formula One team since 1986 in the role of team principal.
COURTESY OF HAAS F1 TEAM