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Haas F1 Team

F1 Team Principal trend emerging after Steiner exit

Following the sacking of Guenther Steiner and the appointment of Ayao Komatsu to the Team Principal role at Haas, it continues an emerging trend that has been occurring in Formula 1.

Komatsu
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

With the promotion of Ayao Komatsu to the Team Principal role at the Haas Formula 1 squad, the Kannapolis-based outfit is continuing a recurring trend seen in the sport over the last several years.

Komatsu comes from an engineering background and often, these figures play a key role in the background to ensure the team's success.

While responsible for the car’s performance, they are not necessarily the spokesperson for their team or directly bear the weight of the responsibility to perform at a high level.

Haas has not been operating satisfactorily over the past several seasons as it has found itself finishing the campaign rooted to the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship twice in the last three years.

As a measure to initiate change, Guenther Steiner has been ousted as team boss after a decade of leadership. Rather than look externally, Haas promoted from within and has now tasked Komatsu with spearheading a climb up the pecking order.

Although Steiner comes from an engineering background (albeit not finishing his degree), Komatsu has been central to Haas’ technical operation for the last eight years while it has been present on the F1 grid.

Taking that knowledge to the forefront of the team is vital for the squad and its desire for growth, as team owner Gene Haas explained.

“I think Guenther had more of a human-type approach to everything with people and the way he interacted with people, he was very good at that,” Haas told Formula1.com.

“Ayao is very technical, he looks at things based on statistics – this is what we’re doing bad, where can we do better. It’s a different approach. We really do need something different because we weren’t really doing that well.”

The continuing trend

Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, who are perhaps F1’s most well-known current team bosses in their roles at Mercedes and Red Bull respectively, do not come from engineering backgrounds.

Wolff is strictly a businessman while also a former racer, while Horner tried his hand in racing before switching focus to team management.

The duo are long embedded in their respective teams and have overseen monumental success across the last 15 years.

However many of the team leaders, particularly those who have been hired more recently, come directly from an engineering upbringing.

After its first campaign running under the guise of Aston Martin, the Silverstone-based squad hired Mike Krack from BMW to run the team, a decision that seems to have worked out admirably following its leap up the pecking order in 2023.

Similarly, McLaren’s promotion of Andrea Stella to the Team Principal role from his position as Racing Director coincided with a strong season of development for the Woking-based outfit that saw it rise from back-of-the-grid competition to consistent podium-scoring form.

Last year was also the debut season for James Vowles in a Team Principal role after the Briton departed Mercedes for the opportunity. While Vowles has stated that this season will be a true test of his input due to his late arrival in the construction of last year’s car, Williams’ mindset is clear - a technical behemoth to look after the revamp of the former World Champions.

Even AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s sister team, is looking to the expertise of Laurent Mekies this year following the retirement of Franz Tost at the end of last season.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

What next for Haas?

It will be a very different Haas team that is fielded when the season gets underway at the beginning of March.

The Team Principal embodies the personality of the team, aside from the drivers, as they are the personnel who face the most media attention throughout the campaign.

Perhaps it says quite a lot that Steiner is known more for his viral clips of swearing than anything the team has produced on the track.

It’s true that Steiner can be credited for placing the limelight on the Haas team through his comedic values amid a period in which results have failed to see it become engaged in competitive conversations.

Changing the team leader means implementing alterations that will trickle down through the organisation. A new way of thinking, a new way of operating and a new way of working.

The end result must be a lift from the difficult position Haas currently finds itself in at the bottom of the championship. And for a first-time Team Principal in Komatsu, a tall task lies ahead of him to overcome such a challenge.

But by pairing the Japanese engineer’s extensive technical knowledge with his experience in the team, Haas hopes its homegrown architect will soon reap rewards.

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