Sauber technical director James Key leaves the team

2012 F1 season

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Sergio Perez, Sauber, Interlagos, 2011

Sauber have lost technical director James Key just days before the launch of their new car.

In a statement issued by the team Key said: “I’ve enjoyed the past two years working at the Sauber F1 Team.

“It has been a very intense and interesting time, in which we had to manage the transition from a much larger team to a smaller one, and everybody handled that very well. I think the team is now well set for the future and I wish it the very best. I have been offered a new role back in the UK, which I decided to accept.”

Team principal Peter Sauber added: “A qualified team shares the overall technical responsibility. This structure has proved to work well at other racing outfits.

“Over a period of almost two years, James has accomplished a lot for our team. Especially in the difficult transition period from a manufacturer team into a private enterprise, he contributed significantly to ensure the team regained stability. We would like to thank him for his efforts and wish him all the best for his future.”

Key joined Sauber in 2010 having previously worked for Force India.

The Sauber C31 is due to be launched on Monday in Jerez.

2012 F1 season

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Image © Sauber F1 Team

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Sauber technical director James Key leaves the team”

  1. I’d like to think this is karma for costing us those points in Melbourne last year.

    Seriously though, I wonder what this means for the team, especially on the eve of testing. I hope this doesn’t put the team on the back foot.

    1. This is very similar to the circumstances in why Key left Force India two years ago. Similar timing too:

      Technical director Key leaves Force India
      James Key joins BMW Sauber

      So which British-based team is he about to reappear at? Williams?

      1. Maybe Lotus? They lost some staff in the past year if I remember correctly. Didn’t their technical director left to Mercedes?

      2. I’d say Williams. Don’t think they’ve actually replaced Head yet have they?

      3. I’d say Caterham. Maybe Tony realized Gascoyne is just not enough.

      4. Mercedes are collecting former technical directors…but surely they’ve all the roles covered now – heads of design, aerodynamics, technical director etc.
        Could be a role like Sam Michael’s new McLaren job. Lotus maybe?

      5. Keith – Any idea why he’s doing it? Does he just love that initial challenge? Difficult to work with? (Getting a 20% raise each time?)

        1. Whatever the reason, I’d say he’s damaged his reputation with this repeated bad timing. I wonder how much notice Sauber actually got. You would have thought F1 team’s have a 6 month – 1 year notice period written into their contracts for such key (sorry) posts.

          Terrible news for Sauber, me thinks. :(

      6. I wouldn’t even be supprised to see him turn up at Marussia! But Williams is a strong candidate as well, i guess.

  2. Im interested to know where he’s going to. Back to the UK could mean another F1 team as most are based there.. but no mention of it.

    1. If he is joining another F1 team they wouldn’t want him to announce it himself. They have to be the ones to put out the press release announcing their grand new signing.

      Williams is probably not a bad shout as mentioned by Keith above. Or Caterham.

      1. I have to admit, I did instantly think that Caterham would be where hes going, seeing as they’ve made a big recruitment drive.

  3. My guess is either another uk team are in trouble and need to steady their ship so have headhunted him or things arn’t looking great for the C31 prostpects so he’s decided to jump a sinking ship. Either way we will find out shortly. This would be a good addition to any mid level team as Key will have first hand knowledge of Saubers setups inovations and developments even cockups over the past 2 years. Interesting Development.

    1. It may be family reasons also!

  4. My guess would be Williams!

    I’m a tad worried about this though. Sauber have done a great job of adapting to their independent status and very quickly, and I think Key’s had a lot to do with this, particularly the technical side of affairs.

    Who are Sauber going to get to lead their development in 2012?

  5. I’ve heard rumors that Key is joining Symonds at Marussia.

    1. That would be a challenge & a half for him! That said, his input at Force India saw them climb the ladder, and his move to Sauber saw a rise in their fortunes too after their car wasnt all that.

      Maybe Key’s like a challenge and Marussia would certainly be one!

      1. It would be great for Marussia. Symonds and Key is quite a good team I think. Especially for such a small team.

    2. @sjm @mike it would be a hell of a team. One of Key’s strengths is that he’s not just an aero guy; and not just a mechanical guy. He’s a student of both disciplines; and that’s very important. For example, everyone thinks of Newey as an aero guy; but he’s not… Newey does aero, and also does mechanical. Ditto with Neil Oatley at McLaren. It’s no wonder their two cars were the best two of 2011.

      I’ve just heard other speculation too though; that given his multi-disciplinarian nature; he could be heading to understudy Newey; or perhaps taking Pat Fry’s old job at McLaren.

    3. Funny, I had a hunch he might go there even before I read your post @raymondu999!

      I agree that it could make a real good team as Key really seems to be great at taking the right things to make the most of a teams budged technology wise.

  6. I do hope they’re well prepared. At least they got the car finished but I’d hate for them to get lost over the testing period.

  7. I hope Marussia is his destination, it would be a huge boost for the team. Personally i think they will make a big step forward this year and if they get Key as well then things can only be going in the right direction.

    However i wouldnt be suprised if he ends up at williams taking over from Patrick Head as they are in need guidance at the moment.

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