After fierce criticism of a race steward, Haas team boss Günther Steiner gets away with a fine. Rightly so, according to Hall-of-Fame F1 journalist Ralf Bach:
Actually, the stormy Friday at Suzuka was like a rescue for Haas team principal Günther Steiner (54). In the midst of the threatening mega-Typhoon Hagibis, the officials of the all-powerful automobile association FIA ordered Steiner to attend his official hearing.
The reason was an emotional event for Steiner in Sotchi, where he criticized one of the FIA stewards to the utmost on team-radio for everyone to hear. To Kevin Magnussen:
“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.”
Steiner referred to the Italian former-racing driver Emanuele Pirro (57), who always smiles nicely in the paddock during conversations, but shows a completely different side when it comes to doing his job as an FIA steward.
So what happened in Sochi?
Kevin Magnussen was given a five-second penalty in Sochi for failing to rejoin the circuit correctly after a brief off at turn 2 while battling Sergio Perez, which cost him a position in the final results. Magnussen, of course, called it a “bullshit penalty”
Pirro decided a 5-second penalty for the Dane, that dropped him from 8th to 9th place. The whole incident prompted the enormous outburst from Steiner over team radio on the cooldown lap as he expressed his dissatisfaction in Steiner style.
The strict automobile association, whose president Jean Todt sees himself as the leader of an institution that is sometimes internally referred to as an English monarchy, now wanted to set a hard example for his majesty offense. Jean Todt takes any criticism of his association personally.
The saber-rattling in the run-up to the hearing was fierce. There were talks of Steiner being banned for a race, even a point deduction for the team was considered. In the end, Steiner had to pay a measly $7,500 fine.
You have to know, in the world of F1 that’s nothing. Every PR appointment camouflaged as an evening dinner burns through more cash.
As I know Steiner, he probably must have smiled after the hearing. The cranky lateral thinker, who always speaks plain English and says what he thinks doesn’t belong to the uncritical crowd of Yes-men and women, populate the hermetically sealed luxury oasis called Paddock City. With this rather surprising mild penalty, he exposed the illusionary world of FIA and its associates.
Because since Steiner became a cult star on the Netflix Formula 1 documentary “Drive to survive”, that fans love because of Steiner’s curses and emotional outburst, he has become some sort of marketing ambassador for American chief marketers of Liberty.
For those involved, it’s obvious that Steiner not only has become a star outside the secret world of the paddocks, but it’s because of personalities like Steiner ‘the iron cross’, that more and more people are interested in Formula 1.
Because in the end, more fans mean more media attention and hence more revenue for the organizers and all involved. And that’s what the Americans are foremost concerned about – profits. Why else would they allow live-gambling with live betting during the races in 2020? Because there is where the big money is. Image doesn’t matter then.
Steiner knows his value. In an interview, he smiled and replied:
“Actually, they (Liberty, Red.) should have paid me, but I’m just who I am. I’m not an actor who pretends, if I think something, it has to get out. But, yes, the documentary is not exactly what my daughter should be watching. On the other hand, we educate her that she should always be faithful to her values, and I won’t do anything else. Because sheep, that always follow others can only see the asses of those they follow and nothing else.”
That he doesn’t only talk the talk but walk the walk, knows Britta Röske. Today she is the PR lady of Germany’s F1 star Sebastian Vettel. She knows that Steiner is not only honest and straight with you, but he is also a man who stands to his principles – such as justice.
Röske, just starting out in Formula 1 at the newly founded Red Bull Team was mobbed by a colleague in 2005. She was about to resign when Steiner, then technical director, intervened.
Even though he wasn’t responsible for HR matters at the Milton Keynes-based team he couldn’t let injustice go by. Soon, good and evil were unmasked. The evil had to go and Röske could stay and later landed the job with Vettel.
Steiner likes non-conformists, likes people who swim against the tide, likes discussions and therefore doesn’t avoid them. That’s why he wants to march ahead, go his own way. Even if it means the challenge the authorities:
“I respect it when people argue with me – I even want that – I don’t want “yes” people,” he explained.
“To start an honest dialogue, I have to be honest.”
And, as I said before: This type of attitude even lets the cash register ring for our US owners and marketers.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.