Steiner slams Schumacher

As the star of season one of Drive To Survive, Gunther Steiner hasn’t changed with fame but he still had things to say. In his biography, the Italian explains where he came from, how he set up the Haas F1 project, manages the team and its drivers. His account of the 2022 season sheds light on his relationship with Mick Schumacher, and his burdensome uncle, Ralf…

“Surviving To Drive” is obviously a nod to the Netflix series. The 57-year-old Italian with the trademark guttural accent became a star in the opening minutes of Drive To Survive season one, when he is heard saying “We look like a bunch of wankers” to his boss Gene Haas on the other end of his mobile phone. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean didn’t even run half the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, stopped two laps apart by a loose wheel.

In the paddock, they call it ‘amateurism’ and he couldn’t find any other words to express it.


Biography reveals all

Gunther Steiner loves being an underdog in Formula 1. His outspoken style and compulsive name-calling would not fit in with the communication of a major manufacturer. Haas, a team shared between the symbolic American base of Kannapolis, the Italian offices of Maranello, which designs the single-seater, and the British workshops of assembly in Banbury, is all that he needed and makes him happy. And he says it very well in his biography.

Throughout his diary-like account, Gunther Steiner tells us about his life as a team manager, how he created this team in his own image and that of the entrepreneur Gene Haas; his tricks made of bits of string, his in-your-face managerial style.

Gunther Steiner doesn’t come from nowhere. Nor does his familiar vocabulary. A mechanic by training, he climbed the ranks in the WRC, until he became technical director of the Ford Focus project at M-Sport, at the time of Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae, if you can believe it. In rallying, the structures are small, everyone knows each other and frankness is the rule. That’s how the “shit”, “fucking” and other flowery derivatives are scattered over 268 pages like a punctuation mark. Because “it is sometimes necessary to use foul language”…

Niki Lauda didn’t know any of this, and he was determined to call him in to co-manage the Jaguar team in 2001. With the team sold to Red Bull in 2005, Gunther moved to the US.

Steiner decided to dive back in with th insight that the US could not stand by and watch the stillborn failure of the USF1 project go to waste. And it was only with the faith of Gene Haas and by prodding Bernie Ecclestone, Niki Lauda, Jean Todt, and Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali that he managed to get Haas on the grid.


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Haas was entered in 2016, but only really began to take off when Netflix came along in 2019. And made the volatile Italian a real ‘darling’ for F1 fans

 “I’ve never watched a single episode of Drive to Survive, and I probably never will,”  concedes Steiner.


Enter Mick Schumacher

After several years with experienced drivers in Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the Haas F1 team turned to rookies to race. Namely Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher and sponsor rich Nikita Mazepin, the latter being moved on after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Russian title sponsor being removed from the car.

With a clear comparison between Mick and an experienced Formula 1 team mate in the form of returning Dane Kevin Magnussen, the young German driver clearly struggled. 

Pushing himself and perhaps not getting support from the team, Schumacher made mistakes and had crashes. This issue coming to a head when Mick smashed up his Haas car in Monaco last year, slicing it in two.


“The first time a driver destroys a car because of human error, you have to forget about it. The second time, you think there’s something wrong”, the Italian grumbles in his biography.

“Mick seems incapable of admitting the seriousness of the situation (…) Mick’s excuse is that, in order to go faster, he has to take more risks, and this is an occasion where taking more risks did not work. That may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. What does he want? For me to give him permission to keep taking risks in races he doesn’t know how to handle?”



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Ralph didn’t help Mick Schumacher

Micks’ chosen advocate in the media, uncle Ralph, didn’t hold back when pointing the finger at the Haas F1 team boss publically. Something not lost on Steiner.

“I was talking to Johnny Herbert the other day, who I know from his time at Jaguar, and he told me that in 11 years of F1 the only driver he’s really had a problem with is Mick’s uncle,” reveals Steiner.

“Johnny is very tolerant. So you have to get up early to get on his bad side. He’s also a very good presenter, he can be critical or controversial without it getting personal. I don’t think Mick’s uncle is smart enough to understand the difference.”


Last season, the Haas boss claims that up until Monza both his drivers had 50 / 50 equal treatment, but this changed come Suzuka with Steiner stating “what a start to the weekend!” in his book.

“Mick had an accident at the start of free practice 1, causing $700,000 worth of damage! It happened on the first lap. The first lap! I can’t have a driver who I’m not sure can drive a car safely on a slow lap.” The German was “cautiously” returning from his reconnaissance lap in the rain.


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Austin ‘shambles’

The die was cast, and Ralf’s relentlessness made his nephew’s case worse in Austin, where Haas announced a title sponsorship deal – worth nearly $100 million – and the non-renewal of his driver’s contract.

“Mick’s uncle has started talking rubbish again,” the Italian said.

“According to him, everyone at Haas is doing a good job, except me and Gene. That’s true. Although his nephew has already destroyed two cars this season and still only scored 12 points (10 less than Kevin), Gunther Steiner and Gene Haas are the weak links. The man is clearly a genius. The sensible thing to do in this situation would be to see if he can help his nephew and be of any use, instead of trying to stir up shit and make headlines.”

For now, Mick  has to reinvent himself as a reserve driver in the Mercedes garage, under the benevolent eye of Toto Wolff. But the Schumacher clan is not far away, spreading rumours that Mick could replace Hamilton in 2024.

The soap opera will no doubt continue on.

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