sport news Guenther Steiner is the unlikely star of Netflix's Drive to Survive and is ... trends now
For a long time nobody much knew Guenther Steiner. He was a backwoodsman of Formula One. A dutiful servant, a decent executive, and well-regarded in certain circles.
And then in Mexico City airport last year, a girl, maybe 16, ran so hard to get his autograph, or a selfie more likely, that she fell flat on her face. On the hard, shiny floor. Guenther did not see the smash, but he knew about the group gathering around him, and we quietly exchanged places in the queue so he was just fractionally more hidden from view.
This is what Netflix has done to him. The Haas team principal is the breakout star of Drive To Survive for his straight-talking and, frankly, expletive-riddled demeanour, and he is hostage to fame wherever he goes.
We meet in a central London hotel, in a quiet room, out of the way. Nobody sees him this morning. Nor, if you can believe it, does he swear — actually, just once, a light four-letter word — in the course of 35 minutes of good-humoured chat.
The latest series, the fifth, dedicates an episode to Italian-American Steiner, and American owner Gene Haas, sacking Mick Schumacher, who despite his fabled surname was not quite up to the grade. In unguarded outbursts before the fly-on-the-wall cameras, Steiner says: ‘We give him a year to learn — what does he do on the second day? He f***ing destroys the car, just because the other guy is faster.’ He also calls the German ‘a dead man walking’ and castigates him as being ‘in over his head’.
Guenther Steiner, the team principal at Haas, has not watched Netflix's Drive to Survive series
While his wife has, and his daughter may have done, he does not want to change his ways
The behind-the-scenes documentary means that Guenther is recognised by fans on the street
It’s fair to assume that Steiner and Schumacher are not best buddies as a result, but the forthright team boss denies bullying Mick, who was replaced by the more experienced and capable Nico Hulkenberg for this season, claiming his criticism was spur-of-the-moment and that his more moderate interpretations of his ex-driver’s abilities were probably left on the cutting-room floor.
Probably? Well, that’s because Steiner is the last man to know. He has never watched Drive to Survive. His wife of 25 years, Gertraud, has. Their teenage daughter, Greta, probably has, he can’t be sure.
Speaking in the Germanic-sounding drawl with Italian and American influences that is his trademark to new F1 followers, Steiner, whose trip through the Dolomites in a tiny Fiat 500 accompanied by former Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto helped launch the latest Drive to Survive series, says: ‘I never did watch it. I want to avoid it. If you look at yourself, you change, and I don’t want to do that. You want to do better or improve. But I am not an actor, so I don’t need to do better. If I don’t watch, I don’t feel the pressure when I do it next time. I don’t