Ayao Komatsu Replaces Guenther Steiner as Haas Team Principal for 2024 F1 Season

Haas entered F1 in 2016, and has seen a dip in form in recent years. Guenther Steiner team principle since 2016 steps down after eight years.

Ben

By Ben Bush
Updated on March 2, 2024

Ayao Komatsu Replaces Guenther Steiner in 2024

With the upcoming 2024 F1 season on the horizon, Guenther Steiner has departed from his role at Haas, following a series of lackluster results. Ayao Komatsu, formerly the director of engineering, will take over as the team principal, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Steiner, who gained popularity through Netflix’s “Drive to Survive,” has been at the helm of Haas since its inception in 2016. However, the team representing the United States has had a challenging time in the past few seasons, culminating in a last-place finish in the 2023 season Constructors’ Championship.

According to Sky Sports News, Steiner’s departure comes as his contract concluded at the end of 2023, and there were differing views between him and the team regarding their future direction.

“I’d like to start by extending my thanks to Guenther Steiner for all his hard work over the past decade and I wish him well for the future,” said Haas owner Gene Haas.

“Moving forward as an organisation it was clear we need to improve our on-track performances. In appointing Ayao Komatsu as team principal we fundamentally have engineering at the heart of our management.”

ky Sports F1 commentator David Croft commented: “Formula 1 has lost a massive character, a very popular character, and someone who transcended the sport somewhat.

“He was number three team principal behind Christian Horner and Toto Wolff [in terms of publicity] and that’s good for the sport that the fans want to associate themselves with a team like Haas because they really like what Guenther stands for. That’s the underdog and taking it to the big boys.

“I hope he returns in another guise somewhere in the future.”

Haas ended up at the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship at the end of the 2021 season with drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. The team progressed to eighth position in the 2022 season but regressed to the back of the pack in 2023 despite the seasoned expertise of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

The team’s standout moments from 2023 included Hulkenberg securing a seventh-place finish in Australia, complemented by Magnussen achieving three finishes in the top 10.

In response to the unexpected announcement, the team’s drivers expressed their gratitude to their outgoing team leader on social media.

Magnussen, who first joined the team from 2017 to 2020 and made a comeback in 2022, reflected on his time, saying it had been “been both fun and tremendously challenging – but never boring”. Hulkenberg, who Steiner brought back to an F1 racing position last year, shared, “you’re definitely a character… all the best!”

Why did Steiner leave now and what void does his departure create?

Craig Slater, reporter for Sky Sports News said: “Ultimately Gene Haas has pulled the trigger here and it’s him not renewing Guenther’s contract.

“There were divergent views on the way forward for the Haas team. I’ve been told Steiner desperately wanted significant investment in the factory in Banbury and on the general infrastructure of the team. He thought they had outgrown that facility and needed to invest a bit more to move the team forward. I’ve been told that Gene, and I will attempt to seek that end of it, wasn’t not going to spend the money but wanted to see the team moving in the proper direction before he would spend heavily again on fresh equipment and expansion of the infrastructure at that Banbury base.”

The conclusion of Steiner’s F1 journey

Steiner’s involvement in F1 predates his tenure at Haas, beginning as the managing director of Jaguar from 2001 to 2003, followed by a stint as the technical operations director at Red Bull in the early 2000s.

Steiner led Haas into F1 in 2016, quickly making a mark as Romain Grosjean clinched sixth place in the team’s debut race. The team secured an eighth-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship in their first two seasons, with their peak performance during 2018, finishing fifth overall.

Their 2018 season was highlighted by Grosjean’s fourth-place finish and Magnussen’s fifth at the Austrian Grand Prix, marking the team’s highest achievement. Steiner’s dynamic and forthright personality gained popularity among F1 enthusiasts through the Netflix series “Drive to Survive,” attracting new fans to the sport.

Despite this, Haas experienced mostly underwhelming results on the track from 2019 onward, leading to the end of Steiner’s eight-year leadership on Wednesday, 10th January 2024.

Haas Constructors’ Championship history in F1

YearPositionPoints
20168th29
20178th47
20185th93
20199th28
20209th3
202110th0
20228th37
202310th12
2024TBCTBC

“We have had some successes, but we need to be consistent in delivering results that help us reach our wider goals as an organisation,” continued Haas.

“We need to be efficient with the resources we have but improving our design and engineering capability is key to our success as a team. I’m looking forward to working with Ayao and fundamentally ensuring that we maximise our potential – this truly reflects my desire to compete properly in Formula 1.”

Komatsu faces a significant task ahead

Since 2003, Komatsu has been a figure in the world of motorsport, initially with British American Racing (BAR), followed by stints at Renault, Lotus, and then Haas.

He served as the race engineer for Grosjean at Lotus, during what were some of the French driver’s most successful years in F1, particularly in 2012 and 2013.

Komatsu transitioned to Haas in 2016 alongside Grosjean, taking on the role of chief race engineer. Now at 47, he steps up to manage all competitive aspects of the team as team principal, encompassing the team’s overall strategy and performance on the track.

In addition, Haas plans to appoint a Europe-based chief operating officer to handle all non-competitive operations and departments at their Banbury facility.

“I’m naturally very excited to have the opportunity to be team principal at MoneyGram Haas F1 team,” stated Komatsu.

“Having been with the team since its track debut back in 2016 I’m obviously passionately invested in its success in Formula 1. I’m looking forward to leading our program and the various competitive operations internally to ensure we can build a structure that produces improved on-track performances.

“We are a performance-based business. We obviously haven’t been competitive enough recently which has been a source of frustration for us all.

“We have amazing support from Gene and our various partners, and we want to mirror their enthusiasm with an improved on-track product. We have a great team of people across Kannapolis, Banbury and Maranello and together I know we can achieve the kind of results we’re capable of.”

Source: Sky Sports F1

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush
Ben

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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