Guenther Steiner on life after F1: 'I don't need to do it again'


F1's sweariest team boss is now marginally less busy after leaving Haas but, as Guenther Steiner tells James Elson, he's still living life to the full

Guenther Steiner 2024 Miami GP

Steiner appears at ease with post-F1 life

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Guenther Steiner has had his fill.

We’re not just talking about the finished whiskey glass in front of him, but also expressing a deep satisfaction with an incredible career in racing and a new life outside of the grand prix world.

Though Steiner is well known for his F1 exploits, he first made his name in the World Rally Championship, set up the Red Bull NASCAR team and started his own composites business in the US.

He’s now used his new-found Netflix fame as a springboard to a fresh chapter after he and the Haas F1 squad he founded parted ways at the end of last season.

Guenther Steiner Buffalo Trace whiskey opening

Steiner with his new team – the Buffalo Trace distillery

Buffalo Trace

A nascent media career, second book after his first became a best-seller and a 25-date ‘Evening with…’ tour are all in the offing, and now the charismatic former team boss is entertaining journalists as he hosts a taste-test evening at a new well-appointed distillery in Covent Garden for his latest venture, a partnership with Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey.

As hammy as commercial endorsements might seem – particularly from a man who professes to be “no connoisseur” in matters of alcohol – Steiner plays it off well, at ease with a career transformed.

But does he miss the competitive thrill, even despite the well-documented travails of Haas F1?

“No, I actually like it – I’m free!” he says. “My life is always about learning new things. I was not aware of how much is going on in the background of TV until last week!

“I had to keep talking to fill the programme. I was like ‘Wow! They had me [run out of] talking, that means something.

Guenther Steiner Frederic Vassuer Ferrari F1 team boss

Larking about with Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur in Miami – Steiner’s an ambassador for the Florida race too

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“I do so many different things. I can now find my way about what to do next – if I want to do anything.

“I’m not obsessed [that] I need to go back into running a team. I’ve been there, done it – been very happy with it, but I’m happy now as well.”

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Steiner first announced himself to the motor sport world at large by being the lead engineer on the Ford Focus WRC project – immediately competitive on its 1999 debut with the late, great Colin McRae at the wheel.

It doesn’t sound like the man from the Tyrol mountains ever gets too reflective – or at the very least sentimental – in looking back on his career, but admits starting off with an almost literal bang was pretty significant.

“Working with Colin McRae was pretty cool,” he says. “It’s especially unfortunate he’s not around anymore – we got on very well and a lot of people know that.”

Steiner told Motor Sport in 2022 that the project and car was “Unbelievable – this was a very small team, nothing to do with the [WRC] teams that you see now.”

However, he’s is unequivocal when asked about what makes him most proud in his diverse career so far.

“I think setting up a Formula 1 team is something,” he asserts. “I’m the last one to have done that, going out there on my own, finding the money to do it and then [actually] do it is critical.

“I always think back to when I was a kid, I liked racing cars. Would I ever even [have] dreamt about it? No, because I thought that will not be possible for me – I will never work in motor sport.

2 Guenther Steiner Buffalo Trace whiskey opening

Former Haas team principal likes his drinks neat

Buffalo Trace

“All of a sudden I’m setting up on F1 team. The first time when we went out there in Barcelona in 2016 [for-preseason testing] was like: ‘Is this really happening?’

“I’m very proud of it. You start with an idea, and it shows also that you can do a lot if you believe in it. I set up the last F1 team from scratch – it’s something I smile at.”

“Would I do it differently? Yes, maybe” Guenther Steiner

Steiner’s Haas successor Ayo Komatsu told Motor Sport that he wouldn’t set Haas up the way Steiner did in 2016, with factories in the UK, Italy and US and a model based around using listed parts bought in from Ferrari. Would the former boss do things the same if he had his time again?

“Things have changed quite a lot,” he says. “You would need to look into how to do it best.

“When we set it up, it was a different world. It was 10 years ago, there was no budget cap. The game has changed now.

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“Would I do it differently? Yes, maybe. I will never set up a new team again, I would buy an existing team. This is a much better way to do it. From scratch these days, it gives you so many years of headaches that you don’t really want to do it.”

Back in the here and now, Steiner expands on his new found passion for bourbon. Does the no-nonsense Italian even bother with a mixer?

“I drink whiskey neat, you know?” he says. “I am not one of those guys that fakes it – I quite like it. I’m not a connoisseur, but I’m learning a lot.

“We thought we’d boost it up a little bit with personalities – I always end up in strange places!”

However, it turns out this isn’t Steiner’s first rodeo with a special brew – and he even collaborated with his wife Gertraud on it too.

“I actually made my own wine in 2006,” he says, admitting he didn’t have time to commit to a full vineyard like his close friend and former Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

“I made about a 1000 bottles, it was called Weingeist [ghost wine] and my wife did the illustration for the label.

“But then if you do something, you want to do it right. You need to dedicate a certain amount of time because it is something you want to control.

Guenther Steiner with bag at the 2023 Miami Grand Prix

Steiner parted ways with Haas, and says wouldn’t set a team up in the same way again

Antonin Vincent/DPPI

“I don’t have the time now and I’m travelling all around the world still.”

A big part of all that travelling is his debut 25-date tour which is coming up in October, taking in an ‘Evening with…’ format hosted by his ghostwriter James Hogg.

After immortalising his famous “from rockstars to ****kers” line in Drive to Survive, Steiner is now channeling the spirit of Van Halen and the like himself – six of the dates are already sold out. The first gig came as a one-off experiment in Australia. After that went well, some UK dates were pencilled in.

“My agent first suggested it, and we booked 10 or 12 in October – but then they started selling out so they said we should do more,” he says. “But if people are engaged, they have fun, I have fun, it’s quite nice!”