Speaking to Becs Williams last month on WRC Backstories, the official podcast of the WRC, the F1 team boss spoke of his formative years in rallying before moving to F1 in 2001, speaking at length of the year he spent working with Sainz when they crossed paths at the former Italian motor racing team, Jolly Club.
At the time Steiner was working for the team as a mechanic and head of reconnaissance.
“I did recces, testing and then the races,” reflected Steiner. “I spent 200 days in a year with Carlos.
“I am a little bit damaged from 200 days with him, that leaves traces,” he added laughingly.
The increased period of time they spent together was due to the nature of the WRC at the time, when recce and testing periods were far less restrictive.
“In the old days, you did as many runs as you wanted. It was wide open. You were sometimes in one place for three weeks doing recce, testing and the rally. It was quite consuming.
“You went recceing without cellphones, without support from the team. If there was something wrong with the car you would fix it yourself. If something went wrong there is no one you could call up and say, ‘send us a part with UPS or DHL’.
“When you were in Greece or Africa somewhere, either you fixed it or stood still and if you stood still, the driver wasn’t happy and it probably meant you didn’t have a job when you got back,” explained Steiner, laughing. “It was a little bit more cut-throat, but it was a good challenge.”
Despite the time on the road, Steiner has no regrets of the extended periods spent away from home. “When you are young and love what you are doing, this is the best time you can have.”
The biggest impression Sainz left on Steiner was his incredible work ethic, something he says has also been passed onto his son Carlos Sainz Jr. who currently drives for Ferrari in F1.
“The year with Carlos Sainz was very educational for me. He is a professional. I learned a lot about discipline and how to conduct yourself – how to work hard to achieve something, he never missed a beat.
“He was the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed. He was there all the time, he is still the same now.”
“We [Sainz Jr. and I] always joke about it. When he [Sainz Sr.] goes back to do Dakar he is the first up and the last to bed.”
In the fascinating one-hour chat with Williams, Steiner also goes into great depth about his move to the UK, first to work for Prodrive and then later for the Ford World Rally Team (now M-Sport Ford). There, he played an integral role in the development of the 1999 Ford Focus WRC which Colin McRae famously drove to victory at Safari Rally Kenya the same year.
Steiner would go on to be runner-up in the Manufacturers’ Championship in 2000 and 2001 as part of the British team, before moving to Jaguar in F1.