until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Read Guenther Steiner’s first exclusive column for The Race

by Matt Beer
4 min read

The feeling at the moment is that we are starting from new. Last season was very strange and disappointing because we had highs and lows. I think we made it into Q3 more times than in any other year with two cars, but the race results were bad. So it wasn’t like everything was bad, but we had ups and downs all over the place…

Now we are turning the page. Everybody’s back and looking forward to prove all the naysayers wrong like we did in year one, when we came in and we were told that we would be just like all the other new teams that came and went.

But we scored points in our first race, which hadn’t happened in a long time for a new team. And we just want to do that again.

By no means am I arrogant enough to say that is what will happen, because I would say at the moment F1 is in a state where everybody is pretty well sorted out, you don’t have any real backmarkers anymore and hopefully will have a situation in the future where any team could be winning.

The fact that there’s been no real rule changes can be spun any way I want, but I think there’s no big difference if there is a rule change or not. I think our history book is too short to say we are better when we have no rule change or when we have a change.

“We know we have one of the most temperamental drivers in Romain”

There is a big rule change coming in ’21 and we need to start early on that car, so it helps that for this year there was no rule change and we can continue from last year. We have analysed what went wrong last year – I don’t know how much we can recoup, as all the others will have made gains as well, and I don’t know when they will start on the ’21 cars too.

With the fight in the midfield being so tight, a lot will rest on the performance of the drivers. At some stage last year we came to a conclusion on how we handle them.

Kevin Magnussen Romain Grosjean Haas Spanish Grand Prix 2019 Barcelona

Is it fixed? If you ask me will it happen again, I cannot exclude it, as some other scenario will come up. If something strange happens, it seems like it will happen to us. We know we have one of the most temperamental drivers as well in Romain. He can be fantastic one weekend and he can be nowhere the next. We kept him on to give him the chance to even that out, now hopefully he evens out on the up days and not the down ones… That would be no fun!

Between the two of them we had talks last year and I think we have a good process in place to manage it, they both agree on it, but racing sometimes throws up some unforeseeable things and anything can happen. But I feel pretty good about it.

“If we have got a spec F1 car we are dead”

With the reduction in testing you can argue both ways. More testing is better, but then you need more money, which is worse… I’m always of the opinion that so long as the rules are the same for everyone, we’ve all just got to make best out of it.

Last year for example there were quite a few times when we stopped on the track because of electronic problems, we need to make sure that doesn’t happen because that’s where you lose your time.

If you go out there and the car stops, you lose half an hour for them to bring the car back in, then you lose an hour or two to fix it; you never test consistently. Everything changes. It’s not only the time you lose, it’s if you are in a test cycle you want to keep the same temperature, the same tyres, everything the same and at some stage you cannot catch up anymore.

And now each one of those half-an-hours is worth more because there is 16 hours less. It wasn’t that we weren’t well prepared, it’s just that you need to put that extra little effort in to make sure you make no mistakes.

With two new extra races this year I think we are at the point where we are at the limit. Fortunately, we don’t have to test anymore in the middle of the year, but for sure it’s challenging. There is a point where I think there will be a saturation from a spectator side and if you have too much you cannot sell it anymore because nobody wants it.

Kevin Magnussen Haas Sergio Perez Racing Point Belgian Grand Prix 2019 Spa

People say ‘but not everybody is watching everything’. But I think in F1 we have a lot of people who watch every race. I think the fanbase which is really into it is pretty high. I think Formula 1 is different to any other motorsport because it creates something all the time, but you need to be engaged – if you miss out a month of Formula 1, you’ve missed out quite a bit because there’s always something going on.

Once people get into it, they keep on watching it. For me it’s not only the racing it’s the show. The main attraction of F1 is that there are technical developments, there are politics, there are celebrities and personalities and that’s why there is always something going on. It’s important the racing is good, but the racing alone doesn’t sell.

And that’s why I’m the preacher on keeping technical development in F1. If we have got a spec car we are dead. In 10 years no one will watch us anymore. There is good racing around elsewhere but no one is watching. With F1 people watch it for the race, but it is more than that, it’s only 30% of why they watch F1.

That’s a discussion that will carry on behind the scenes at the strategy group’s meetings, but now my main focus is getting the car and the team ready to deliver to our highest potential in 2020.

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