James Key, Toro Rosso, 2018

McLaren confirm Key will join them next month

2019 F1 season

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McLaren’s new technical director James Key will join them on March 25th, the team has confirmed.

Toro Rosso agreed to grant Key an early release from his contract on March 23rd.

McLaren announced it was hiring Key from Toro Rosso in July last year, and has been in negotiations with Red Bull over when he could join the team. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said it was the team’s intention for Key to start in time for him to contribute to the development of the MCL34 and their new car for the 2020 F1 season.

Toro Rosso has also confirmed Jody Egginton’s promotion to become its new technical director. Team principal Franz Tost revealed the planned move to RaceFans earlier this week.

Key’s arrival is part of a wider reorganisation at McLaren which has also seen the appointments of Gil de Ferran as sporting director last year and Andreas Seidl as managing director of the Formula 1 team. Seidl is due to take up his role at the team later this year.

Key arrived in F1 with Jordan in 1998 as a data engineer, rose to the level of technical director, and remained with the team through its transitions into Midland F1, Spyker and Force India. He left for Sauber in 2010, then moved on to Toro Rosso two years later. During his time at the Red Bull junior team Key has earned a reputation for producing aerodynamically innovative designs despite the team’s comparatively limited resources.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 13 comments on “McLaren confirm Key will join them next month”

    1. Look like that car is going to be gruesome, because this year’s Toro Rosso is Key’s last car and it seems to be very good.

      1. Key has been on ‘gardening leave’ since last summer (or not ‘in a position where he gets all the latest information’) according to Tost.
        Little of the current STR comes out of Key’s hands I’d say.

    2. This is good news for McLaren. Hopefully, he will have some input on the 2019 car in time for the mid-season updates, but more importantly, he’ll have plenty of time to work on the 2020 concept. I do have some reservations about James Key though, in that he hasn’t really managed a team with a huge budget and staff yet. For all we know, he could be the Fretzen of technical designers, in that he can perform brilliantly in the midfield, but can’t quite cut it at the top level.

      1. @mashiat

        Aah… the Frentzen. I reckon we could now replace that with the Bottas

            1. @todfod
              Or the Hulk

    3. Key made some great cars for TR (and some mediocre ones too). But Key was on gardening leave for quite some time in 2018 so I doubt he had much influence on the 2019 car, apart maybe from the overall concept if that has not changed due to the increased integration of RB parts.

    4. STR still have The Power of Dreams, whereas McLaren have been struggling with The Stuff of Nightmares.

    5. Remember when Mclaren signed Pete Prod?

    6. If Toro Rosso placed Key on gardening leave, they would be paying him his full salary to grow potatoes.

      Maybe they just need their funds to pay someone to do his job at TR and released him to join McLaren to cut costs.

      1. Maybe Red bull didn’t want Key to be released to Mclaren too soon.

    7. James Key worked magic with the Sauber cars and he’s done a solid job again at Toro Rosso. This is very very good news for McLaren’s 2020 car design.

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