While a host of new teams that have come to the sport in recent years have been unsuccessful, Haas has made some successes and is about to embark on its sixth season in 2021.
He came to F1 with a completely different business model than other teams, having agreed to a partnership with Ferrari to buy everything he could from the Italian set.
Reflecting on the team’s origins in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Steiner said his first thoughts of getting involved in managing an F1 team arose when he was approached by the failed team USF1 in 2009.
“The idea came up in a very strange way,” he said. Steiner. “At that time, F1 had lost manufacturers like BMW, Toyota and Honda, while among those who wanted to join was USF1, which was based 15 km from my home.”
“I was introduced to the boss, Ken Anderson, because he needed my company to do a job for him. Bernie Ecclestone called me regularly to ask what was going on, because the whole thing was not clear.”
“Then one day I got a call from Chad Hurley, the main investor, who asked me what to do to get into F1, since I knew that world.”
“The only solution (that seemed to me) was to buy the cars that Dallara was building for Campos, but evidently there was not enough time to enter the championship. After a couple of days he told me to contact Mr. Dallara to discuss the matter. “
As Steiner probed options to help USF1, he met with Domenicali -who was then Ferrari’s team leader- to get his opinion on the situation.
“One afternoon I had some free time, so I went to see Stefano Domenicali, to ask him what the atmosphere of F1 was like in those years and to understand more about it,” he explained.
“Stefano advised me not to go ahead with Hurley because he understood that it was not a project with a solid foundation. But the idea of making an F1 team was already in my head, so I thought about it for a while.”
“In those months there was talk of a third F1 team for potential client teams, so after a while I called Domenicali again to propose a project structured so that he would have this car.”
“He said, ‘Find someone who is willing to invest seriously in racing and then we’ll see.’
“So I started reaching out to people from the racing world, until I found someone who knew Gene Haas, who was involved in NASCAR at the time.”
“We got together and started talking about it, first distantly and then in detail. The negotiations lasted a year and in the end Gene was convinced to join, so he asked me to find him a place.”
“It’s always difficult at first, but once you find someone to fund the project, then it’s just a matter of working on it to make it happen, get it right, and use the knowledge you have.”
Haas has maintained its close ties with Ferrari since joining F1, and the partnership has been strengthened for this season with the creation of a center for the American team in Maranello.