RACING

Why Steiner prefers his F1 drivers to have ‘nowhere to hide’

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Never one to hold back his true feelings, Steiner can sometimes be quite blunt when it comes to talking about mistakes he, his team and especially his drivers may have made in the heat of battle.

It’s part of his personality and, far from being a dull business executive who just spouts PR lines, it’s made him a fixture in the paddock.

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But that doesn’t mean there’s no downside to his willingness to tell things exactly as he sees them, because sometimes in life the truth hurts.

Criticize individuals too much in public and it can undermine morale. Talk about your drivers and that can only put more pressure on them just when they might need as much support as possible.

It was this fine balance that Steiner had to judge earlier in the year when Mick Schumacher suffered a series of high-profile crashes while chasing his first F1 points.

Steiner did his best to keep the pressure on the young German’s shoulders as criticism was directed at him from the outside, but he also wasn’t afraid to let it be known that he was unhappy with the how things were going on the right track.

Some harsh words spoken about Schumacher after his accident in Monaco have certainly raised eyebrows as potentially going too far, but through it all Steiner is clear on one thing: it is better to tell the truth even if sometimes it puts him in hot water.

“I think there’s nowhere to hide here,” Steiner said, speaking to Motorsport.com about his management style.

“I’d rather deal with the truth and deal with the consequences, than not tell the whole truth, and then have to deal with, ‘I said,’ he said, ‘what what is real?’

“That way what I say is true and people believe me, because that’s what I tell them. And we’re dealing with it and improving. When you have a bad run, you can learn not to be wrong. It’s the same thing here.

Steiner is aware that harsh words can be read by those involved and feelings can be hurt, but it’s clear he never intends to deliberately upset anyone on his team.

“Obviously it’s always difficult not to hurt anyone when you do that, and that’s my goal. But sometimes a driver, and they’re up front, if they make a mistake, like when Mick gets in a car accident, I can’t say, ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m pretty happy with it.

“No, I have to say, ‘No, I’m not happy about that. We will try to get out of it and I have to find a solution to fill the hole financially.

“But I wouldn’t say, ‘No, that’s not a problem.’ ‘Cause then you guys [the media] say, ‘Are you stupid or what?’ So that’s my approach to life in general. You know, I’m just saying what I think and hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

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Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Schumacher management

While Steiner had moments where he was unhappy with some of Schumacher’s mishaps early in the campaign, he is optimistic the youngster is now much improved after his strong results in the British Grands Prix and from Austria.

Reflecting on how he handled Schumacher’s ups and downs, Steiner said the key for him wasn’t really trying to get too involved in offering specific driving advice.

Instead, it was about empowering Schumacher to know he had every chance to show what he can do.

“I think a lot of pressure was put on him from the outside, and I don’t know how he handles that one because he’s doing his own thing there,” he said.

“But I think what I always do, and what I always will do as team principal, is give them the same opportunity as the other driver. And as long as you keep that, you can look into the eyes of the two drivers and say, “Hey, that’s what you got, now it’s up to you to find a solution because I can’t drive the race car. I know it doesn’t doesn’t turn out the way you wanted but keep trying, it’s the same opportunity.

“Other than upgrading in Hungary, everything was always equal, and with strategy, the same. So that’s the only thing I can try to stabilize: to keep him mentally focused. So obviously the interference from outside, I can’t handle it because I can’t get inside his head.

“Obviously at a time when Kevin [Magnussen] arrived, it was a different world for him and he had to adapt to it. But I can’t tell him that; he needs to see that on the data where he wastes time and stuff like that.

“But I think he overcame that, you know. Obviously, we would have liked it to come earlier, because then we would have more points, but in the end, Silverstone and Austria are two good races for him. So hopefully now we’re on that road.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Magnussen’s star performance

While Schumacher has caused Steiner headaches this year, on the other side of the garage Magnussen has impressed hugely on his return to F1.

After rejoining the team effortlessly, Steiner feels he and team owner Gene Haas likely underestimated the value that high-quality, experienced drivers have in achieving results, after employing two rookies in 2021.

“We have seen this with [Fernando] Alonso too: there are still a few guys who can obviously drive these cars,” he said.

“But I think we underestimated how difficult it is and how talented you have to be. at the end: to maximize what is there.

“Sometimes you just have to settle for what’s there and don’t try to chase a dream this weekend. So let’s take something home instead of risking it all.

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