Ayao Komatsu Haas Leadership

Ayao Komatsu: A Softer Approach Than Steiner?


Ayao Komatsu steps in as Haas F1’s new leader, aiming to steer the team to new heights after Günther Steiner’s departure.

The new head at Haas F1 is him: Ayao Komatsu has been chosen to succeed Günther Steiner (sidelined due to differences in opinion with Gene Haas).

The announcement of Günther Steiner’s departure was a surprise to many observers in the paddock; but did Ayao Komatsu, who spoke to Planet F1, see it coming? More importantly, does he feel up to the task, as Günther Steiner’s presence had been closely tied to the identity of the Haas team?

“To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess.”

“It’s a huge responsibility to lead the team on behalf of Gene. It’s enormous. At the same time, I’m very grateful for being given this opportunity because I feel… I’ve been with the team since 2016.”

“I know a lot of people, and I understand the different departments – how they work together, or not. Over the various discussions we’ve had over the years, we’ve had ideas about how to improve the team.”

In terms of demeanor, Günther Steiner was known for his fiery character, popularized in part by Netflix. Does this make Ayao Komatsu a soft touch in comparison to Günther Steiner? But isn’t it also necessary to ‘shout’ to be heard in a team?

“I don’t think it’s a question of being tough or soft.”

“I hate bullshit, so in that sense, I’m the same. But as a person and human being, we are very, very different.”

“It’s pointless to keep comparing myself to my predecessor because there’s nothing to gain. We are very different human beings. He did his best – he had his approach.”

Günther Steiner was potentially very well-liked at Haas, especially in Italy (Steiner’s country and where Haas has a base too, in Maranello).

So, was Komatsu well received by the Haas teams… even in Italy?

“I was grateful for all the support that was given to me. I then flew to Italy – I’m based in the UK – so I had much less contact with Italy.”

“So I was a bit more worried, if I may say. But, again, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone sees this as an opportunity to improve and show what they can do. So, I’m very grateful to them.”

What does Komatsu want to change fundamentally?

“As for the technical organization, we’ve made fundamental changes.”

“But I would say that’s the bare minimum of significant changes. It’s something I really had to do, I believe I had to do it. It was fundamental for how we’re going to work together in the future.”

“Let’s say the very first phase is completed. Of course, there will be many phases to come to improve the organization.”

More specifically, one of Komatsu’s first decisions was to promote Andrea De Zorda as technical director (succeeding Simone Resta who had already left the team).

“I have a lot of respect for him.”

“I’ve been working with him for two years. I know what he’s capable of, he’s very, very good technically. He has a very good personality and is very, very committed. He really focuses on what needs to be done. I have full confidence in him.”

On the financial front this time, Steiner wanted to seek external shareholders so that Haas could compete on an equal footing with the rest of the grid. Gene Haas wanted to make do with what was available.

With the revision of the investment cap rules, Haas can now spend 65 million over three years, the highest total on the grid. Is this a priority for Komatsu? But where to find the money?

“Absolutely, it’s the first and most important thing today…”

“There are a lot of things we can improve within the resources provided by Gene.”

10th place is not inevitable for Haas

Now speaking of sports performance. Gene Haas also sidelined Günther Steiner due to insufficient results: does Ayao Komatsu agree with this assessment?

“If we had a team that maximized every opportunity, then Gene wouldn’t have done what he did… I feel like we fundamentally haven’t come back from the situation of 2019. But that’s what we’re doing now.”

Ultimately, what should be Haas’s goal this year? Ayao Komatsu has been realistic in his statements upon taking office: Haas should be at the back of the pack, at least at the start of the season.

Is not finishing last all the ambition for Haas this year?

“If I thought 10th place was inevitable, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

“It’s a competition. If you don’t have the ambition to leave the back of the grid, you shouldn’t be doing it. So it’s not inevitable – we will do everything in our power to get out of it.”

“I look at what’s in front of me and do my best to find a solution and make progress. That’s what I’m focusing on – what’s in front of me. The result will follow, whatever it may be.”

“But as long as we maximize what we have, and also continue to develop our efficiency… that’s my goal.”

“There’s no magic solution. You have to look at all areas. When I took the reins of the organization, if I said, ‘OK, we seem to be doing very good work, everything is efficient, everything makes sense,’ then we would have problems, right?”

“Because you don’t know how to improve them. That’s not the case at all. There are many things we can do before we need to expand the [financial] constraints that weigh on us.”

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