Haas, F1’s smallest team that is set to finish dead last in 2023, finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the demands of a sport that is as ruthless as it is glamorous. Ralf Schumacher, a former F1 driver turned German television pundit, has never been shy to cast a critical eye on the Gunther Steiner-led team – a competitor he believes is increasingly at odds with the essential culture of Formula 1.
The American team’s journey, particularly in the past year or so, has been tumultuous. The team’s pressure on Mick Schumacher, Ralf’s nephew, was a major point of contention, leading to the young German’s exit from the team due to perceived poor performance. This episode, Ralf argues, is symptomatic of a deeper issue within the team’s ethos.
However, the challenges for Haas extend beyond individual drivers. The team finds itself languishing at the bottom of the constructors’ championship this year, even with highly experienced and regarded drivers at the wheel now. Despite introducing a heavily-modified ‘B’ car in Austin, the hoped-for leap in performance has not materialized – to the point that Nico Hulkenberg even opted to race the old version in Las Vegas. And it was yet another event where Haas left without adding to its meagre points tally.
Steiner, the team boss, remains steadfast in his assessment of Haas’ performance. As quoted by Speed Week after Las Vegas, he stated, “I don’t think we did anything wrong. Both drivers fought hard to get the best out of their cars. I think they succeeded. And we stayed ahead of some of our normal opponents.”
Ralf Schumacher, however, sees this attitude as misaligned with what it takes to compete at the highest level in Formula 1. “The question is always what you want,” he said. “Do you just want to be in Formula 1, earning money, willing to accept the situation? That’s more like the Olympic attitude, where taking part is everything.”
Schumacher senses a palpable tension within Haas, a team closely allied with Ferrari but struggling to find its footing. “If they want to make progress, then I think it’s clear and obvious that it doesn’t work this way. It’s not enough for the current Formula 1,” he remarked.