Key will return to Alfa Romeo as technical director after McLaren exit

2023 F1 season

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Alfa Romeo has announced the return of James Key to the team as its new technical director following his departure from McLaren.

Key previously worked at the Sauber-run team between 2010 and 2012. He then moved on to Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri) and was hired by McLaren to head up its technical division in 2019.

However he was let go by McLaren earlier this year as new team principal Andrea Stella announced a shake-up of its technical division in response to its poor start to the 2023 season. In addition to returning to a familiar team, Key will be reunited with McLaren’s former team principal Andreas Seidl, who is now group CEO at Sauber.

Seidl said Key will find the team’s operation “has changed a lot since his time here” over a decade ago. “But the same drive, the same commitment that contributed to making the team successful in his previous experience are still the same: I am sure that, together with this very talented and committed team, we will be able to continue on the path of growth on which we have embarked.”

Alfa Romeo’s tie-up with Sauber will end after this season as the team prepares for its new works power unit programme with Audi, which will hit the track in 2026.

“James’s appointment is a crucial step on this journey,” Seidl continued. “He has an outstanding amount of experience in the sport, not just as technical director, but also in various other roles within the technical organisation of a team.

“He will lead the transformation process of the technical side of the team, giving us the tools and direction we need to tackle the future.”

Key will take over from Jan Monchaux when he joins the team at the beginning of September.

“I also want to thank Jan for his precious contribution to taking Sauber to where it is now, following our most successful season in a decade, in which we climbed to sixth place in the constructors’ championship,” Seidl added.

Key said he is “looking forward to leading the technical side of the team at one of the most critical junctures of its long history as we head towards a new and exciting future.

“There is a huge amount of work ahead of us, but I am confident that every single member of our team working in Hinwil will have the commitment, determination and hunger to get us to the top. We know it will require time, effort and perseverance, and the dividends from this work will only arrive over the next two seasons and beyond, but we have a journey ahead of us and a roadmap to follow which I am eager to get started.”

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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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13 comments on “Key will return to Alfa Romeo as technical director after McLaren exit”

  1. Electroball76
    7th June 2023, 8:47

    If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them….maybe you can hire The James Key
    baa ba baaaaa! bub bub baarrrr!

    1. I have no idea what led you to associate James Key with the A Team but this was a good chuckle.

  2. Not exactly a great signing, given his complete lack of success across a decade+ with multiple teams.

    If that’s the road Audi are going to take, they might as well not come into Formula 1 at all.

    1. It’s not untrue, but Sauber in 2010 was a pretty rough start considering BMW had bailed out just months earlier and it wasn’t at all clear if the team could continue (people who care for the details might check the recent interview with dr. Theissen on F1 Beyond the Grid). Then in 2012 Sauber was fighting with Mercedes behind the top four teams, and could have even won a race had Alonso not been there for some classic Alonso-2012-heroics. The second Red Bull team isn’t meant to be competitive, so it’s not really his fault that the team languished in the bottom of the pack (although it’s fair to wonder why Red Bull didn’t care to bring him to the main team).

      What’s more concerning for Audi is indeed his stint at McLaren. Not only did the car remain uncompetitive, it also carried over much of the drivability problems that hindered the pre-2022 designs into the new era, which shows some structural problems with the design process that Key was either unable or unwilling to address.

  3. This is great news for Audi and bad news for all ignorant people! His work at Toro Rosso and consistency in delivering solid results were a good testimony of James’ qualities. McBrown is not worth mentioning. Lately, working there is just a blot on the resume. It’s sad to see what such a team has turned into.

    1. His work at Toro Rosso and consistency in delivering solid results were a good testimony of James’ qualities.

      From 2013 through 2018, the second Red Bull team was 8th, 7th, 7th, 7th, 7th, and 9th. Red Bull probably doesn’t care, because that’s the norm for that team so whether or not Key has to be “blamed” for that is debatable. He probably had to work with minimal resources and facilities.

      His time at McLaren is probably more of a concern, but apparently not for Audi.

      1. Ha ha ha

  4. The McLaren revolving door, at work again.

  5. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not he can produce something better than McLaren has. Might point towards things not being at all well in the Mclaren camp if he can.

  6. Just another talented person that McLaren have chewed up and spat out. Just like:
    Martin Whitmarsh
    Ron Dennis
    Dave Ryan
    Pat Fry
    Eric Boullier
    Daniel Riccardo
    Stoffel Vandoorne
    Checho Perez
    Kevin Magnussen
    Juan Pablo Montoya

    It’s great that Seidl, Sainz, Alonso and Hamilton got out when opportunity knocked – McLaren have definitely got a toxicity problem.

  7. Don’t necessarily mean he’ll still be there when it’s called Audi, but well done for reporting the news without using the word “unlock.”

  8. Seidl and Key. The two guys responsible of the misery at McLaren can now mess up Audi’s plans of a successful F1 entry. Can’t wait.

    1. or,
      2 of the 3 guys at McLaren who saw the inherent rot within McLaren and got out without chocolate frogs. I’ll be interested to see if guy 3, (Daniel) looks to join them at Audi in the future.

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