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Haas F1 Team

Why Steiner exit could spell disaster for F1

Has there been an incidental consequence to Haas' decision to split with former Team Principal Guenther Steiner?

Steiner Qatar
To news overview © XPBimages

Guenther Steiner's shock split from Haas has led to an outpouring of support from fans across social media in recent days.

The former Team Principal has gathered a cult following since the first season of Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive aired, with Steiner becoming one of the faces of the series because of his outspoken personality.

The decision from Haas owner Gene, whilst potentially profiting his own organisation, could spell a disaster for F1 in a time it is desperately trying to retain its growing fanbase in the midst of domination by Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

The cult hero

Netflix has proven to be a revelation not just for F1, but for sport in general.

Drive to Survive sparked the trend of fly-on-the-wall documentaries being used to promote race series, with the PGA Tour Golf, Six Nations Rugby and ATP Tennis all following suit.

But paramount to the success of the series has been the personalities involved and producers would have celebrated with joy when Daniel Ricciardo was reinstated to a seat on the grid with AlphaTauri last term - after all, the Australian and Steiner are the two main protagonists, along with Christian Horner.

Steiner's departure will spark concerns for F1 and Netflix as he was the cult hero.

Ever since he made his 'we look like a bunch of w******s' quip in Australia during season one of DTS, fans latched onto his infectious personality.

His interactions with his drivers have gone down infamously and allowed a new generation of F1 fans to fall in love with a specific aspect of the sport, broadening gateways to increase viewership.

Why is this bad?

So why would F1 be worried?

The reaction across social media since the announcement that Steiner had departed has been highly negative.

It gives a new breed of viewer a reason to turn off from the sport, if their favourite personality is no longer available to view. During a time when there is a dispute over whether audience numbers are continuing to grow or not as Red Bull cleans up the competition, this is nothing short of a nightmare for F1.

Steiner's popularity was such that he was guest commentating on NASCAR races - creating access for non-traditional American F1 fans - he has released a best-selling book based on the 2022 F1 season and he was appearing on American talk shows.

All of that access that F1 had, particularly stateside, has been lost. Simultaneously, there is back-and-forth over the admittance of Andretti Cadillac Racing to the grid.

With three United States-based races, Liberty Media will be desperate for American relations to be as strong as possible, yet all the signs - at least publically - suggest this is under threat and Steiner's exit will only worsen the mood.

It may be prudent for F1's bosses to find a way to crowbar Steiner back into the sport. How that could play out, however, remains to be seen.

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