The shock news was announced by the US-owned outfit on Wednesday in the wake of a poor 2023 season that saw it finish 10th and last in the constructors’ world championship.
Steiner’s contract was up for renewal at the end of the year, and team owner Gene Haas opted not to extend it.
As previously reported, former technical director Simone Resta has also left the team in a decision that predates Steiner’s departure.
Steiner, who formulated the plan for an F1 team using Ferrari technology and then sourced the funding from machine tools manufacturer Haas with which to start it, appears to have paid the price for last year’s poor performance.
It’s been no secret that at times there has been tension between Steiner and Haas, and there were differences in opinion in the camp about the technical direction to take, with the split of old and new aero packages seen in the last two races of 2023 an obvious public sign of the diverging views.
In essence, Steiner – who will appear at Autosport International on Saturday – was asking for more investment in an effort to keep up with rivals who are spending heavily on updated factory infrastructure, while Haas wanted to focus on making more efficient use of the resources that his team already has at its disposal.
Significantly the slide to 10th place represents a big hit to the team’s share of the F1 prize fund, and it means that Haas has to commit to making a bigger contribution to the 2024 running budget than he might have expected to, in effect leaving less margin for investment in the facilities.
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
In stark contrast, the likes of Williams, Sauber and AlphaTauri have taken advantage of the extra capex allowance allowed by the FIA and committed to extra spending during the build-up to the 2026 regulation changes.
The team says that Komatsu will be responsible for the team’s strategy and on-track performance.
In a statement, it noted that he will have “a brief to maximise the team’s potential through employee empowerment and structural process and efficiency”.
Komatsu will be supported on the organisational and commercial side by a yet-to-be-named new chief operating officer, who will focus on non-racing matters and probably be based at the UK facility in Banbury.
Owner Haas has made it clear that his focus is on improving the performance of the team.
“I’d like to start by extending my thanks to Guenther Steiner for all his hard work over the past decade and I wish him well for the future,” he said.
“Moving forward as an organisation it was clear we need to improve our on-track performances. In appointing Ayao Komatsu as team principal we fundamentally have engineering at the heart of our management.
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Ayao Komatsu, Chief Engineer, Haas F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference
“We have had some successes, but we need to be consistent in delivering results that help us reach our wider goals as an organisation. We need to be efficient with the resources we have, but improving our design and engineering capability is key to our success as a team.
“I’m looking forward to working with Ayao and fundamentally ensuring that we maximise our potential – this truly reflects my desire to compete properly in F1.”
Komatsu, who joined the Banbury team from Renault as chief race engineer for its debut season in 2016, becomes F1’s first Japanese team principal of a European-based outfit.
“I’m naturally very excited to have the opportunity to be team principal at MoneyGram Haas F1 Team,” he said.
“Having been with the team since its track debut back in 2016, I’m obviously passionately invested in its success in F1. I’m looking forward to leading our programme and the various competitive operations internally to ensure we can build a structure that produces improved on-track performances.
“We are a performance-based business. We obviously haven’t been competitive enough recently which has been a source of frustration for us all.
“We have amazing support from Gene and our various partners, and we want to mirror their enthusiasm with an improved on-track product. We have a great team of people across Kannapolis, Banbury and Maranello and together I know we can achieve the kind of results we’re capable of.”
Photo by: Erik Junius
Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team, Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team principal
Steiner played a huge role in raising the team’s profile in recent years thanks to his appearances in Drive to Survive, which made him known far beyond the F1 paddock.
It remains to be seen what Haas’s sponsors, including title backer MoneyGram, think of his departure.
Speaking to Autosport last year MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes made it clear that Steiner was an important part of the team’s appeal.
“We had seen that effect of Guenther when we first met and we went out to dinner,” he said.
“People were coming up to the table in the middle of dinner and wanting a photo, and they were just giddy to see him. And he’s so funny, so genuine. He’s like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on’.
“To see that star effect that he has, and how that comes across, that’s who he is. And I think that genuineness really shows through. And for us to also be able to attach our brand to his is very special.”