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Book review: Guenther Steiner's Surviving to Drive

Having made himself a household name in Drive to Survive, Haas Formula 1 team principal Guenther Steiner is now offering another way to get to know him better. We take a look at his new book, which takes that Netflix series title and flips it on its head

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

“We look like a bunch of wankers.”

It’s fair to say that a star was born when Guenther Steiner uttered words to that effect on an early season of Drive to Survive. Just as much as the Netflix documentary has propelled Formula 1 into the limelight and helped it amass a new following, so too it has done the same for the Haas F1 team principal.

T-shirts emblazoned with his face and catchphrases have cropped up across the globe on F1’s travels, and the Italian is almost as much of a celebrity as some of the drivers.

It was perhaps inevitable, then, that he has published a book, which is aptly titled Surviving to Drive: A year inside Formula 1. Firstly, and very unsurprisingly, reader discretion is advised since there are so many expletives – a Steiner trademark, which, along with his sudden outbursts and forthright comments, have made him a star.

All of those aspects feature in abundance throughout the book, which rather than being an autobiography is essentially a diary in which Steiner charts each weekend of the 2022 F1 season with Haas, and any other notable bits in between during the campaign.

This begins with dropping Nikita Mazepin and the team’s Uralkali sponsorship in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and culminates on something of a high with Kevin Magnussen earning the team its first pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix – via ups and plenty of downs.

Those hoping for a Steiner performance similar to his Drive to Survive exploits are in for a treat – there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, witty comments and rants galore. He’s certainly not afraid of being sued for any of his remarks, which include taking aim at the FIA decisions that impacted Haas over the course of the season, as well as former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher.

The German becomes a critic of Steiner due to the perceived way his nephew, Mick, is being treated by the team, but the Haas boss pulls no punches.

Guenther Steiner has attracted quite a public following - and that was before the new book!

Guenther Steiner has attracted quite a public following - and that was before the new book!

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

His honesty is refreshing given that almost all who work in F1 are generally subjected to toeing a PR line – but not Steiner. And although happy to criticise others, he’s certainly not above berating himself or being the butt of a joke.

Weaved in among Haas’s exploits are moments from Steiner’s life, such as how he got into motorsport in the first place, through rallying, before joining three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda at the Jaguar F1 team, plus his time in America before convincing Gene Haas to set up an F1 operation. There are some wonderful stories, from his experiences in the 1992 Dakar Rally, to he and Lauda being driven to a hotel in Japan by a man who “had an Olympic medal in foking about”.

It’s not all comedy, though. More serious topics are discussed, such as his thoughts on needing more inclusion and diversity in F1, as well as the drive for sustainability. There’s also a touching section on Haas mechanic Harvey Cook, who died from cancer and to whom Steiner has dedicated the book.

If there is a criticism, it’s that writing in a diary form means some entries – usually covering what happened in FP1 and FP2 sessions – are almost irrelevant, although they are kept to a minimum.

While Steiner plays up to his Drive to Survive persona, it’s clear that underneath the humour there’s an intelligent man who is in F1 to succeed, someone who cares passionately about the team while trying to overcome the many blips of an F1 season, all of which is retold in his unique way.

Just like Steiner is one of a kind, there’s never been a book quite like this!

Surviving to Drive: A year inside Formula 1 is published by Penguin and is available as hardback, ebook or audiobook. Start shopping here.

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