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Haas F1 Team

Who should Haas find to fill new void?

With Guenther Steiner gone and Ayao Komatsu stepping in as Team Principal, Haas is on the lookout for a new Chief Operating Officer. Who is the best person for the job?

Steiner Gene Haas 2014
To news overview © XPBimages

Haas' shock news that former Team Principal Guenther Steiner had departed earlier this week has led to a reshuffle for the outfit.

Long-serving engineer Ayao Komatsu has taken the step up to take on Steiner's responsibilities, following a recent trend of teams opting for engineers to take the reins at the top.

But to help the Japanese, Haas will soon name a European-based Chief Operating Officer to oversee non-sporting matters from the team's Banbury factory.

Whilst there will no doubt be a shortlist, one name in particular stands out given his previous exploits in F1 - and he is free on the market.

Szafnauer to return?

Otmar Szafnauer could well be the man to answer Haas' needs and is currently out of work in F1 after his unceremonious dumping by Alpine at last season's Belgian Grand Prix as part of the French manufacturer's managerial cull.

The move seemed harsh on a weekend Pierre Gasly had picked up the team's second podium of the season and there is little doubt that Szafnauer still has much to achieve in the sport.

But why would he be a perfect fit for the COO position at Haas?

His history shows experience in such a role, having been Operations Director for British American Racing [BAR] in the late 1990s and early 2000s before becoming Vice President of Honda Racing Developments and a member of the management board for Honda's works entry.

That's obviously a plus point, but perhaps his exploits in more recent times actually underline his suitability for the role.

Team owner Gene Haas is apparently insistent that results are achievable without the type of investment Steiner was supposedly seeking. This is where Szafnauer's time with the Force India-Racing Point effort comes in handy.

The Silverstone-based outfit was renowned for fighting well above its weight in F1 given its diminutive budget and the fact it worked out of the relatively small former Jordan factory - though that has now changed since rebranding to Aston Martin.

Szafnauer's journey with the team led to a first race victory at the end of their partnership at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, won by Sergio Perez - a fitting tribute to both of their commitments through the darkest of days for a team which had fought off administration.

So given Haas' current situation, its humble workplace and workforce and relatively small budget - even within the budget cap - Szafnauer is the first person that springs to mind when you think about outperforming investment.

The fact there would be no compensation due for any rival team would also be a major plus point for Haas.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

What about Binotto?

Another option with obvious ties to Haas would be Mattia Binotto.

The Italian is yet to return to F1 since departing as Ferrari Team Principal in the 2022-2023 winter break and was instantly linked with the Alpine post when Szafnauer was shown the door.

Bruno Famin remains in charge there for now with no indication of any change forthcoming, so maybe Binotto could be tempted to take on the Haas COO role.

The American-owned team's strong links with Ferrari mean it would make a lot of sense for Binotto to be chosen and, with Gene Haas suggesting more needs to be made of the partnership, maybe this could be the way forward.

But would Binotto take the drop down to a team that finished last in the Constructors' standings last season? Would he want to distance himself from Ferrari? There are question marks that need to be answered.

Of course, there are other names that Haas will be looking at, but at least for now, Szafnauer looks the ideal candidate.

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