Guenther Steiner has made a bombshell exit from the Haas Formula 1 team, which he'd spearheaded since it joined F1.
Steiner was crucial the formation of Haas F1 and its unique set-up in which it has technical alliances with both Ferrari and Dallara, meaning it has to design and produce fewer parts than any other team on the grid.
He oversaw Haas's impressive rookie season in 2016 where it finished sixth in its debut race and eighth in the constructors' championship, and the highs and lows that followed since.
These included a point-less 2021 season, a maiden pole position at Interlagos in 2022, and most recently a 2023 car that was a strong qualifier but had a tyre-wrecking weakness that left Haas bottom of the constructors’ championship for only the second time in its eight-season F1 history.
But now Steiner been replaced by former trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu, who has worked under Steiner since the team's inception.
Komatsu also has vast F1 experience pre-Haas, having worked in engineering roles for at BAR and Renault.
CEO Gene Haas said Komatsu's engineering background was crucial in his appointment.
“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,” Haas said.
"Going 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.
“We have had some successes, but we need to be consistent in delivering results that help us reach our wider goals as an organisation. 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."
This will be Komatsu’s first taste of senior management, following in the footsteps of recent engineers-turned-team bosses Andrea Stella (McLaren) and James Vowles (Williams).
“I’m naturally very excited to have the opportunity," Komatsu said.
"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.”
Haas also announced it will appoint a European-based chief operating officer who will "manage all non-competition matters and departments", a role that will be based at Haas's Banbury facility, the former home of the Marussia F1 team.