Haas F1 Team’s Guenther Steiner discusses the budget cap where he feels more teams can join in, while he talks about Sebastian Vettel as well.
With the proposed budget cap lowering the cost of competitive entry in F1, the sport – which previously demanded a sky-high budget to field and support a race-winning operation – has undoubtedly become more attractive to entities interested in joining the grid, even as increasingly relevant series’ like Formula E threaten to draw interest away from the pinnacle of motorsport.
More than this, though, the ever-lowering budget cap also seems likely to encourage those who may be considering ditching F1 – particularly in these challenging times – to stay with hopes of somewhat inexpensively-obtained success in the future, this being something Haas team principal Steiner discussed with Sky Sports.
This topic is particularly relevant to him, with his boss being one of the many currently weighing his team’s future in F1 beyond the 2020 season – where none have yet signed the Concorde Agreement – particularly after poor performances in 2019 failed to meet expectations.
“I think the proof is in the pudding,” said Steiner. “When we get to sign the new Concorde agreement we will see if the billionaires will stay in the sport. I would say, if they stayed before, it’s a lot more interesting now. For sure, we need to push more to make this a great team business going forward and that’s one of my jobs to do for Mr. Haas.
“We are trying to get this to a point where his investment is smaller, and for teams coming in when a budget cap is discussed they think they can make money with it, but it’s still a very expensive sport. You still need to invest a lot of money to get somewhere.
“I think the good thing is, for the manufacturers, the board of directors see that there is a cap and they know how much they are going to spend as a maximum. It’s not like you start with one number and after five years this number is tripled or quadrupled.
“Now there is a stake in the ground that says, ‘this is the maximum you are allowed to spend by regulation’. It’s pretty clear-cut now while before there was always the element of how much you were willing to invest. I think it’s a good thing and hopefully, it will draw big car manufacturers to invest in F1,” summed up Steiner.
The aforementioned ‘stake in the ground’ currently sits at $145 million – $30 million lower than initially planned. However, getting to this lowered threshold took time, with weeks of negotiations between the top teams and the bottom teams, where Mclaren was pushing for extremely low, whereas other midfield outfits didn’t think it was viable still.
Throughout the process, some were accusatory of the largest teams, suggesting that they were being greedy and needed to be more considerate of the smaller outfits who are struggling. Despite the criticism, though, Steiner believes that the top three acted within reason, and were cooperative when they needed to be to ensure the betterment of the sport, even though their actions were not entirely selfless.
Steiner also spoke separately about how the various backgrounds of the team principals helped conversations, with everyone contributing in their own way. “I think it’s fair, and I would say it’s still selfish because if this hadn’t happened, I think some of the small teams would have gone and that would not help the big teams,” he said.
“I think it’s a fair compromise that they realized that and were honest about it, and made some cuts as far as they could go, and there the compromise came out. I think for sure they are aware that without the smaller teams there is no sport.”
In the last several weeks, the budget cap has been one of the hottest topics in the news cycle, second only to the F1 driver market madness, which was perhaps predictably brought up in the show after Martin Brundle raised the question of whether or not Haas would consider the main protagonist on the saga, Vettel.
As expected, Steiner downplayed the possibility, citing Haas’ inability to afford the four-time world champion, and his perceived lack of interest in driving in the lower-mid-field. “If I had Ron Dennis’ amount of money, yes,” Steiner said. “But I cannot afford it.
“I think Sebastian, being a four-time world champion, I wouldn’t say he’d want to go to the midfield anymore. If you have a successful career, what you don’t want to do is to take too many risks. I’ve got a good relationship with him but I haven’t offered him a seat. I think somebody else with a lot deeper pockets than me will do that.”
Steiner also rejected the notion of hiring him as a test driver if he were to find himself without a race seat in 2021, shortly after expressing his surprise when he heard the move was happening, even though he had heard about it – like many others – on the grapevine before the news was released.
Here’s Romain Grosjean on GPDA and more
Here’s latest on budget cap and more
Here’s Guenther Steiner on multiple topics
Here’s Kevin Magnussen on his driving style
The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani