May 29, 2023

McLaren designer Key out as Brown says team must speed up its car development · RaceFans


McLaren has parted ways with its technical director James Key following its disappointing start to the 2023 Formula 1 season.

The team has confirmed the impending return of David Sanchez from Ferrari as part of a reorganisation of its technical division. McLaren said in a statement the changes have been planned for several months.

Key held the role of executive technical director, which the team will divide between three people as part of a reorganisation by team principal Andrea Stella, who took charge in December. The new executive team will include Sanchez taking the role of technical director from the beginning of next year.

Peter Prodromou will take over the role of technical director for aerodynamics and Neil Houldey has been appointed to the new position of technical director for engineering and design. McLaren has also announced Piers Thynne has taken over as chief operating officer.

Key has been with McLaren since 2019

Key joined McLaren in 2019, having previously worked at Toro Rosso, to take charge of their technical division. The team rose to third in the constructors championship in 2020 but has not been as successful since F1’s technical regulations were overhauled last year, when it fell to fifth in the standings.

McLaren has endured a disappointing start to its 2023 campaign. At its launch the team played down its prospects for the start of the season, confirming it had discovered some areas for improvement with its car which it would not be able to exploit until later in the year.

At the Bahrain Grand Prix Key confirmed the team had suffered a particularly severe loss of performance as a result of the changes to the floor regulations introduced for 2023. The MCL60 has also suffered from poor aerodynamic efficiency leading to lower straight-line speeds than its rivals. The team is yet to score a point this year, though new driver Oscar Piastri reached Q3 at last weekend’s round in Saudi Arabia.

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Stella thanked Key and said he “wished him well for the future.”

“Looking ahead, I am determined and fully focused on leading McLaren back to the front of the field. Since taking on the team principal role I have been given the mandate to take a strategic approach to ensure the team is set on a long-term foundation, for us to build on over the years.

Zak Brown, McLaren CEO, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Technical development “not quick enough” – Brown

“This new structure provides clarity and effectiveness within the team’s technical department and puts us in a strong position to maximise performance, including optimising the new infrastructure upgrades we have coming in 2023.

“Alongside Peter and Neil, I’m delighted to welcome David Sanchez back to the team to complete an experienced and highly specialised technical executive team, with the collective aim of delivering greater on-track car performance.

“I’m looking forward to continuing working together with Piers, who will play a fundamental role to define and deliver the plans to create an innovative and effective F1 team.”

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said “it has been clear to me for some time that our technical development has not moved at a quick enough pace to match our ambition of returning to the front of the grid.”

“I’m pleased that, having completed a full review with Andrea, we are now able to implement the restructure required to set the wheels in motion to turn this around,” he continued. “These strategic changes ensure the long-term success of the team and are necessary to see McLaren get back to winning ways.

“We have everything coming into place now with our people and infrastructure and alongside an exciting driver line-up, I’m determined to see McLaren get back to where we should be.”

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