Steiner on whole Russia situation: 'Would have been crucified by anyone'

Steiner on whole Russia situation: 'Would have been crucified by anyone'

17-04-2023 15:29 Last update: 15:53

Guenter Steiner, in his book Surviving to Drive: A Year Inside Formula 1 told more about the situation that occurred during the winter tests last February. Russia had invaded Ukraine and Haas' title sponsor Uralkali maintains good ties with the Mazepin family as well as Vladimir Putin. Both Nikita Mazepin and Uralkali were shown the door. Not an easy decision, but a necessary one.

On 24 February 2022, Steiner woke up to the news of the Russian raid. The team boss says he deliberately did not turn his phone on because he knew his mobile phone would explode. "When I eventually turned it on there were over 100 texts and about 70 voice messages," Steiner said.

Haas F1 breaks ties

Then followed a "very difficult" conversation with Mazepin. "I know that his father, Dmitry, who is the majority shareholder of our main sponsor, Uralkali, is close to Vladimir Putin and, at the end of the day, I don’t want our team to be associated with someone who starts a f***ing war, you know? Nikita said that he wasn’t interested in politics and just wanted to drive. I understand and appreciate what he’s saying but it’s a bit bigger than that. It’s so difficult for everyone."

Next on the agenda was a board meeting. The board wanted to know what the team boss thought of the whole situation. "I told them. Drop the Uralkali branding. Change the livery to white and tell the whole f***ing world that is what we have done." And so it happened. Ties with Uralkali were severed, which Steiner said was the only option. "If we retained Uralkali as a sponsor and had them on our livery we’d be crucified by the media, the fans and the FIA. It would be suicide and I’ve got enough on my plate."

Few other choices

Steiner is convinced that other sponsors would have called off the partnership if Haas had not intervened adequately and waited longer. In the end, Kevin Magnussen was appointed and Mazepin sent away. "Even if we kept him on, because of the sanctions that have now been placed on Russian nationals in some countries, he wouldn’t be able to take part in all the races." Steiner said.