Stranger Things

Netflix made sweary Haas boss Guenther Steiner a sensation last year. Now Drive to Survive has returned, he explains to Scott Mitchell why F1 must grasp its chance to hit the mainstream

Drive to survive netflix Guenther Steiner Haas

Calm before the storm: Haas's 2018 dramas created Drive to Survive's most memorable moments

Vladimir Rys

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

We are in the presence of TV royalty. Guenther Steiner is taking time away from a valuable day in his Haas team’s testing schedule at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to delve into a world he happily admits he knows little about, but one that turned him into an overnight star last year.

In case you missed it, the first series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive gave a rare look behind the scenes of the 2018 F1 season, featuring eight of the 10 teams – Ferrari and Mercedes were absent but will appear in season two. Focusing less on the racing in favour of narrative intrigue, highlights included Daniel Ricciardo deciding his post-Red Bull future and Steiner’s expletive-filled management of Haas and its drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Drive to survive Haas pitstop

Box to Box Films made Steiner and Haas a highlight of season one

Vladimir Rys

“It’s weird because it sounds too simple,” Steiner says. “People ask: ‘Why did you say that?’. I am who I am. I’m pretty relaxed about things in life. If you try to make something up about a story which isn’t there, I have no patience with that. That’s a waste of time. I put a mic on and went working [as usual].”

That’s not to say Steiner transforms into a loose cannon. He is as honest as they come in F1, and that is what makes him such a powerful asset to the Netflix documentary series. Haas’s up-and-down 2018, and its dramatic decline in 2019, provided an engaging storyline. Steiner’s raw character and authenticity help bring it to life.

Drive to survive netflix renault Haas

With leading teams out, the midfield were the stars in series one

Vladimir Rys

And he truly is authentic. Steiner’s inadvertent starring role in the first season of the series made him one of its surprise revelations. So it is surprising that he says he has not watched the show’s first season and does not intend to watch the second one, which was released on February 28.

That’s probably for the best. If  ‘Guenther Steiner: Swearing F1 Team Boss’ made his mark on season one, then in season two the character comes to the fore. There is not a trace of conscious thought in how Steiner comes across when he’s laying into the team for the VF-19’s stagnated development, or lambasting Magnussen and Grosjean for crashing into other in the British Grand Prix. He threatens people with the sack in the moment – not to play up to the cameras, but because he is emotional. It’s real. “When it comes out, and everybody tells you what is happening, you’re not proud of yourself,” he admits of his high-profile profanities. “But then you get over it. The damage is done.”

Ferrari Binotto

Opening up: Ferrari will feature this time

Steiner understands F1 placing his public persona in the hands of Box to Box Films, the company creating the series. It’s the main reason he has been so open, and why Haas has not fought harder against the inclusions of highly-charged exchanges in season two.

“My understanding is: we want fans to watch us,” says Steiner. “We are our own biggest enemy, by not giving them access to the cool things we have got. And I’m not saying cool things referring to me! Just to make that one clear!

“But we have got so much going on. We’ve got personalities, we’ve got technology. I would have thought differently 10-15 years ago – that we need to keep it secret. But we are a consumer product, we live from the consumer who consumes Formula 1.

“They are part of it and if you don’t show them what you’re doing, and if you don’t give them access to it, how should they know and get interested?”

Steiner strikes a key point. One of motor sport’s biggest problems is its high barrier

of entry. It is a lot easier to ‘fall into’ a sport where you can take a ball to a playing field and kick it around with friends. To go motor racing requires cash. Simply stumbling into F1 has never been an easy thing to do, particularly as broadcast offerings have moved increasingly towards to pay-TV.

We suggest to Steiner that Drive to Survive is F1’s chance to have a ‘jumpers for goalposts’ moment, by lowering the barrier of entry, making it more accessible, and taking a casual audience to the heart of F1’s positives. “Yeah, that’s fair,” he says. “In the 2000s, all the TV stations had a lot of Formula 1 and it was free to view. But the market changed. Now it’s all streaming. In the States, a lot of people don’t have a normal TV anymore. They do Netflix, Amazon [Prime], that stuff.

“So I think what Liberty did, making the deal with Netflix, was very good, because that is where people go now and you need to stay current in this market. Social media is the same. If you don’t do social media, you are out of the game, you don’t reach people.

“That [new media] helps, to make F1 accessible, and give it to people who normally don’t go and look for it. Maybe some of them now see it and say, ‘hey, that’s quite interesting, I could watch a race’.”

Judging how successful the series is is difficult. Steiner and Renault’s Ricciardo, who spends a lot of time in the United States, both say they have registered an impact on a day-to-day basis, pointing to the number of people who refer to the series.

That it got a second season, which includes Mercedes’ German Grand Prix explosion, indicates that F1 saw enough initial value to persevere beyond a single 10-episode run. Ferrari and Mercedes agreeing to be involved in season two was also a major boost.

Drive to survive netflix Lewis Max

How long Drive to Survive will continue for is another question entirely, but Steiner suspects it will reach a point of diminishing returns fairly quickly. If it does not, his message is quite simple: shine a light on the championship and all its positives and the rest will take care of itself. F1 has world-class drivers, fantastic engineers, great technology and engaging human stories – “the race on Sunday is not even 50 per cent of what we are doing”, Steiner notes.

Having an outlet that can put those stories to a much bigger, more casual audience is a weapon F1 can use to combat the age of digital media and pay-to-view television. Steiner reiterates that the authenticity of F1 is key.

“I’ve lived in the States for 13 years, and I’ve learned that you need to give what’s happening to the people that watch you,” he says. “You cannot always stage everything. It’s show business, but you don’t need to play a show. It comes free!

“These guys from Netflix, they’re not making a movie. It’s not staged. For me, it’s pretty simplistic. I didn’t know that it would pick up this much, to be honest. I wouldn’t have given it this much credit, that so many people would dedicate such a big following.

“But I was I was convinced that this will help Formula 1 in general to attract people and help to make it interesting. Because unfortunately, there are billions of people watching us, but how many have got access to the paddock? A few thousand. Think about that. Two billion against a few thousand. But now the billions, if they want, they can get a lot closer to that stuff.”

Steiner doesn’t watch the series because he doesn’t need to. He’s living it, and welcomes the hardest pressure points of his job being broadcast to the world, warts and all. F1 and Drive to Survive are much stronger for that.


Guenther Steiner

Guenther in his own words

“In Formula 1 the highs are very high, the lows are very low.”
Drive to Survive season one

“If we didn’t have a stupid idiotic steward we would be eighth… You know who is the steward. You know him. It is always the same. He just does not get any more intelligent…”
Message over the team radio at the 2019 Russian GP. Steiner was fined E7500.

“We looked like rock stars. now we look a bunch of clowns”
To Gene Haas after Magnussen and Grosjean lost a likely shock fourth and fifth to its Australian GP pitstop errors

“I’ve had enough of both of you. You let the f***ing team down, me down, [when] I protected you all the time.”
Steiner to his two drivers after the 2019 British GP debacle, Drive to Survive season two