Netflix compelling and successful series ‘Drive to Survive’ is rightly credited with breathing new life into Formula One by creating a whole new audience, especially in the USA.
But the fly-on-the-wall reality series has also discovered cult heroes among previously unknown paddock personalities, particularly in minnow teams and Gunther Steiner, sometimes outspoken principal of the HAAS team, has become one of the biggest stars.
Steeped in an eclectic motorsport background, Steiner started as a rally engineer with Mazda, Jolly Club Lancia, and M-Sport, including adventures as a truck co-driver on the infamous Paris Dakar rally raid.
But he clearly demonstrated ability and resourcefulness and quickly climbed the slippery career ladder to be recruited by Niki Lauda as managing director for the fledgling Jaguar F1 team during its doomed Ford ownership and then Operations Director of that team’s next, more successful incarnation as Red Bull Racing.
Mercurial and hard-working the 58-year-old Italian has now responded to his newfound fame by writing ‘Surviving to Drive – A year in Formula One’, Steiner’s own account of a season in Formula One. With Foreword by Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula One Group, the book graphically chronicles the experiences of Steiner and the HAAS team throughout 2022.
Until reading this excellent book I wasn’t aware that Steiner was actually founder member of the HAAS team along with American multimillionaire and NASCAR team owner Gene Haas. Formed in 2014, the team’s first Grand Prix was Australia 2016 where they went on to score 8 points for 6thplace in their debut.
But Formula One was in a very different place during that era, when you could have bought the defunct Manor F1 team for a token £1, which sadly no one did. But HAAS has now morphed into an accredited and respected privateer team, estimated to be worth today around £500 million.
Peppered with defused expletives which proliferate Steiner’s normal vocabulary, the 280-page book tells the inside stories that made news during what was an expensive season for HAAS.
Balancing the commercial realities of being Ferrari’s B team, keeping pace with design upgrades while also coping with the eye watering costs of Mick Schumacher’s crash damage.
Fortunately, the team’s lead driver was the more experienced Danish F1 returnee Kevin Magnussen, who replaced Russian multimillionaire Nikita Mazepin at short notice following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and international sanctions.
As a result of the well-made Netflix series, multilingual Steiner is now a global star with his own fan base and lucrative Tee-shirt sales, and now his book is likely to become a best-seller.
I’m sure other readers will agree but I found myself warming to his disarming self-deprecating humor and humility as I got further into the book, which changed my view of the charismatic Italian team principal, who has dedicated his book to HAAS team member Harvey Cook, who sadly passed away after a short illness during the season.
Fascinating, enlightening, informative and humorous, this 280-page hardback book is a great read and easy to enjoy in manageable chunks. Published April 2023 by Penguin Random House U.K, the cover price of this generously illustrated tome is a modest £20 but note that Amazon already has it listed at £14.00 and of course it’s available in Kindle form.
ISBNs 9781787636279 (cased) & 9781787636286 (rpb)
© Ken Davies