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Guenther Steiner

Steiner guarantees Haas survival despite Uralkali crisis

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has allayed fears the team could struggle to survive if they are forced to drop their Uralkali backing.

Mazepin Barcelona
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Guenther Steiner has moved to play down fears that Haas could be in financial straits if the American team are forced to drop title sponsor Uralkali.

The Russian company are entering their second year of title sponsorship of the Haas Formula 1 team but, in light of the outbreak of Russian military action in Ukraine, Haas opted to remove all Uralkali branding from their cars, team trucks and social media presence for the final day of the Barcelona test.

For now, only the branding has been pulled, not the sponsorship itself.

However, with economic sanctions being applied to Russia, there is the possibility that Haas could be forced to cut ties with Uralkali if the company are no longer able to make payments.

With Haas lacking significant sponsorship backing from other parties, the fear is that Haas may not be able to fund themselves and continue racing. But Steiner has moved to allayed those worries.

"It is a headache. But it's not something which disturbs the team on the competition side," Steiner told media, including RacingNews365.com, during a press conference in Barcelona.

"Financially, we are OK. It has no implication on the team, how we are running it, or how we plan the season. There are more ways to get the funding, so there is no issue with that one."

More discussions to be held during the coming week

Steiner explained the decision to pull Uralkali's branding, and said that legal contracts will be discussed over the coming week as the teams get a short break between the Barcelona and Bahrain pre-season tests.

"We have to sort out all the legal stuff, which I cannot speak about until next week," he said.

"We will work through it next week, I am not going to do it today. We made the decision yesterday, with our team partners, that this is what we're going to do. I need to work on the rest next week."

With the possibility of losing another title sponsor so quickly after the Rich Energy saga in 2019, Steiner added that team owner Gene Haas has been thoroughly supportive of the stance taken by his F1 team.

"He stands behind the decision, there is no issue with that one with him," Steiner explained.

"He stands behind the position. He owns the team. He knows what we are doing. He knew what we were doing and he supports it."

Steiner then further downplayed the potential impact of the financial loss of Uralkali as a title sponsor, saying it's merely something to add to his "to-do" list.

"Nobody planned this," he went on to comment.

"We had to take a decision, because we have got more partners now as well, and I think this was the right decision to take.

"There is no setback for the competition side of the team because of this, not at all. We just need to go through the commercial issues. We will do that in the next weeks, but it's just adding to the to-do list – nothing more."

No guarantees over Mazepin's future

With Nikita Mazepin's seat at the team secured thanks to his Uralkali backing, the Russian driver's 2022 position and contract would appear to be somewhat tenuous.

Not only is this due to the Uralkali contract situation, but the potential visa restraints that could be applied to Russian citizens in light of the Ukraine situation.

Steiner also wasn't able to fully guarantee the security of Mazepin's seat.

"He puts a tough face on it. For sure, it bothers him, because it's his home country," Steiner replied, when asked about how Mazepin is handling the turmoil.

"About guarantees, there are no guarantees anywhere.

"As I said before, we just need to see how this all develops, where it goes – there is more than the F1 team involved here. There are governments involved in this one, so I have no idea about what is coming from that side, I have no power over them.

"I think we need to see also the situation and how it develops in Ukraine."

Asked whether any government sanctions had already impacted the running of Haas or their involvement with Uralkali, Steiner stressed that his only concern right now regards whether Russian companies could be cut off from access to the SWIFT payment system – a move which could financially cut off Uralkali from the team.

"Up to now, the official sanctions from any of the governments have had no influence on our business," he added.

"I would need to check with my finance department about SWIFT, if SWIFT is switched off and how that works. Uralkali are a global company, so I don't really know how that would work out."

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