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Two top F1 engineers on the move
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Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jul 2012   |  10:35 am GMT  |  97 comments

As the F1 season reaches the mid way point there are a couple of significant moves of top level engineers among midfield teams.

Toro Rosso’s technical director Giorgio Ascanelli looks to be headed up the road to Maranello, where he will be reunited with former Benetton colleague Pat Fry, who is now technical director of Ferrari. It’s not known yet what Ascanelli’s role will be at the Scuderia, but he is very strong on both the project side and the operational side, showing some real flair on strategic calls last year in particular. Like most top teams, Ferrari makes its strategy calls from the factory, with head of strategy Neil Martin in charge.

Ascanelli is an old-school, very savvy and seasoned F1 engineer, who was once race engineer for Ayrton Senna at McLaren.

Meanwhile his replacement at Toro Rosso looks likely to be James Key, the Englishman who was technical director at Sauber until he left the team abruptly just before the start of the 2012 season. He has a good reputation for getting plenty of bang for buck in midfield teams and played a crucial role in rescuing Sauber from its post BMW slump.

It now has one of the most competitive cars in the F1 field.

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  1. wings on wheels says:

    James, can you please clarify on ‘like most top teams, Ferrari makes its strategy calls from the factory’? Does that mean that strategy calls (like when to pit for instance if a rival has done so in the previous lap) are not made from the pit wall on site?
    Thanks in advance & please excuse my ignorance…

    1. James Allen says:

      Some are, but they have a big capability at the team HQ, many brains and computers crunching numbers and permutations.

      As the connectivity to the track improves they can leave more people at home and save money on travel costs etc

      1. Onko says:

        Mr Allen.
        Is that what Pat Fry was refering to after
        German F1, when he remarked a lot of effort
        was put in by the guys back in the garage at

      2. Kay says:

        Soon they may even just get drivers to race on simulators to save the cost on their travels and car parts etc :D

      3. Davexxx says:

        Gives me a futuristic image, maybe 10 years from now, of just one trained monkey on the pitwall for each team, just to press a few buttons to connect transmissions from HQ to the cars ;-)
        But on a slightly more serious note – Pit Boards: in this modern high-tech sport, why don’t the teams use more modern LED-matrix type boards, that could impart more/different info to the drivers? It seems so old fashioned to see the guys still inserting plastic numbers into the board slots. Is there some regulation that maintains this old style?

      4. wings on wheels says:

        Please let me be that monkey!!!

      5. Nathhulal says:

        When is Flavio Briatore’s F1 ban ending??

      6. Tom says:

        Plus the numbers wouldn’t hit the driver on the head, as Lewis Hamilton found out at Monaco!

      7. Anton says:

        Reminds of Rocky 4 when the Soviet boxer is wired up to all the machines with the scientists monitoring all the stats. And Rocky’s there training using traditional methods.

        Who wins at the end of the day?

        Here’s the training montage just because it’s cool –

        So basically all these engineers and computers and they still cock up the odd pit stop here an there!

      8. Scott Walton says:

        Been ages since I have heard that, thanks.

      9. Bobster says:

        James, is all this data and improved connectivity courtesy of the Tata deal?

    2. Optimaximal says:

      McLaren definitely operate out of Woking. They have a ‘Mission Control’ room in the MTC.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        They would have…

      2. Saffy says:

        Like the “situation room” in the Whitehouse! Maybe they can exchange tips!!

  2. Andy says:

    I thought James Key left Sauber because he got fed up with the lack of budget and constraints at Sauber and lack of forward investment??

    How on earth is that going to be different at the ex-Minardi outfit? Torro Rosso are on arguably less of a budget than Sauber.

    As an aside, Helmut Marko is really quite a frustrating individual. That driver change is really working out for him!!

    1. Kay says:

      I wouldn’t think TR are pretty small on budget, just lack of intelligent personnel probably. They share the same sponsor / employer in Red Bull / DM as RBR.

  3. Tom Webb says:

    Interesting news, I wonder if this is an audition for James Key in case Newey decides to move on.

      1. James Clayton says:

        As you say, not a replacement for Newey, but surely anybody with any calibre moving to Torro Rosso would be looking to move on to Red Bull in the long term. I can’t imagine Key left Sauber just to move permanently to a “B Team”?

      2. gudien says:

        Permanently? What does that word have to do with Formula One?

    1. Kay says:

      That’s like saying Brawn is Newey’s equal.

      Newey is responsible for car designs, his equal would be Rory Bryne.

      Brawn is responsible for things like operational stuff etc.

      Different teams’ technical directors have different duties really, although they share the same title.

  4. Hm, interesting move – I assume posting it here means it comes from a solid source.

  5. I’m curious – why is Gary Anderson commentating for the BBC, and not actually in a technical director role with a team? Is he deemed too ‘old school’ for the latest technologies, or is he simply not interested in that kind of position any more?

    1. Kay says:

      He was with ESPN Star Sports the year before as well (or was it two years..)

      Maybe he’s had enough lol

      1. James Clayton says:

        At least two years.

        He’s pretty old. I don’t think he’d be up to the job now.

    2. gudien says:

      Great question.

    3. Andrew Carter says:

      He’s mentioned in his Autosport column before that he didn’t like the fact that the Tech Director role moved away from car design towards management. Adrian Newey is definitely a bit of a maverick in that he still has a hands on role with car design whilst others deal more with the management at Red Bull.

  6. Trent says:

    There’s a great doco on the 1993 season at McLaren, in which the relationship between Senna and Ascanelli features quite a bit.

    A pretty fascinating watch on what was a great season. I think it was called ‘The Team’.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      Is that available anywhere? One of my biggest regrets not taping that one. Who was to know that Senna would have gone 3 races after this programme finished?

      1. wings on wheels says:

        Here we go:
        Youtube is the best thing on earth…. apart of F1 and JAonF1 :-)

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        Thank you, much appreciated

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        Once again, thank you :)

  7. Tom in adelaide says:

    Toro Rosso have been exceptionally disappointing this year. I guess it’s a case of everyone else moving forward at a faster rate.

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      They started out quite strong this year but rapidly went backwards.

  8. Richard says:

    Pat Fry should remain in TD role.
    Ferrari need designer.
    What is Ascanelli academic degree?

  9. Sam says:

    Pat Fry is the technical director and also head of on track operations. I wonder if Ascanelli will take the latter role from Fry? As far as i remember, he held a similar role in his previous stint with Ferrari during the 90′s.

    I also think Ferrari need a new head of aerodynamics since Tombazis is currently overworked. Did Bigois eventually sign for Ferrari?

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I can’t remember the guy’s name but isnt there an aerodynamicist called Ben ….. working at Ferrari?

      1. zombie says:

        Ben Gurion ?

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        No, I was thinking of a Ben Angelou , or some such, but I can’t find the name anywhere, sure he was signed around march April this year

      3. gudien says:

        LOL. No, that would have been in Jody Scheckter’s days.

      4. Enzo says:

        Ben Agathangelou,he came over from Red Bull, and worked with Pat Fry before at McLaren.

      5. Rishi says:

        Ben Agathangelou. Good call, I’d either totally forgotten or didn’t know he worked for them but it was the only “Ben” I could immediately think of on the technical side and I Google’d the name. And yes he is an aerodynamicist too so should help shore up that side of the design team.

  10. SP says:

    I heard there is talk about a key aero man from Lotus moving to Mercedes. Not sure on the name of the individual though… well, no names were mentioned.

    Have you heard any such rumours James?

  11. xrr says:

    It is a little suspicious why they left Giorgio Ascanelli in the cold. Anyhow if he brings some secrets of Redbull to Ferrari that will be a good use just like Pat Fry and Mclaren secrets.

    1. Kay says:

      I don’t see any resemblance in their cars between McLaren and Ferrari

      1. Cliff says:

        Pat Fry would not have been signed to build a car like the McLaren, his reputation would have gone before him. It’s more likely that Ferrari may want to gained an understanding of various operations within Mclaren, not to mention ideas and designs that Pat Fry would have had access to, hence the long period of “Garden Leave”. The information that Fry gives/knows may not be any use to Ferrari, but you would be crazy not to want to know what your rivals are doing.

      2. Kay says:

        True @ understanding rivals operations and stuff. :)

      3. Peter C says:

        I bet it won’t cost $100m though.

      4. Andrew Carter says:

        Fry brought a lot of knowledge of McLaren simulation technology, widely regarded as one of the best in the paddock, to Ferrari, an area that they’ve been falling behind with in recent years.

        When people say documents that doesnt automatically mean a 600 page document of detailed design plans, but a tech guy moving from one team to another is going to have some idea of the technical specs of his previous employers car and isnt just going to completely forget them.

      5. Cliff says:

        Agreed! As we say at work “empty his head”, and that’s not to be insulting, just an acceptance that the ‘New Guy’ can help us improve our own performance.

  12. Hare says:

    Why did James Key go from Sauber to Torro? I’d he looking to get in to Ferrari? Or did he really fancy moving a bit further south and live in Italy?

    Or could Sauber not afford him, in comparison to Torro?

    1. James Allen says:

      He’s not been in F1 since leaving Sauber at the start of the year

      1. Hare says:

        Yeah he left Sauber.. Why? It was pretty sudden.

        Why did he go to Torro? In need of work? Essentially why did this sequence of events occur?

        Did he leave Sauber knowing he had a job in Torro in January?

  13. sender says:

    I read somewhere that Ascanelli joining Ferrari will fuel speculation about Vettel moving to Ferrari sooner or later…

  14. IP says:

    I think it’s going to be great to have Ascanelli at Ferrari… I wonder if it’s something Alonso requested, it would seem to be the smart thing.

    James, perhaps a special piece on F1 engineers is in order. I think that they are very much still the mystery men in F1 but we get a bit of an insight from the radio chatter.


    1. Sam says:

      Alonso never worked with Ascanelli in the past so i doubt he requested him.

      It’s more likely that Domenicalli had strong ties with him.

      1. Doohan says:

        The Italian team employing more italians.

    2. gudien says:

      Wonderful idea, as well as approximate pay rates would be nice too. We’ve seen men in unsuccessful teams go to the top teams. This seems a bit odd on the face of it.

  15. db4tim says:

    Why would most of the teams do the calls from home base?

    1. James Allen says:

      The way it has evolved in recent years, they can have more people, connected in real time, crunching data etc, less travel expense.

      Most leading teams have an operations room running during a Grand Prix

      1. Horno says:

        Did you ever make an article about that?
        If not?, maybe something interesting for in the future?


      2. Ross says:

        Agreed. Would be an interesting read.

        I would also suspect that those not at the circuit can think clearer than those got up in the heat of the moment.

      3. db4tim says:

        YES it be great JA…

  16. AlexT says:

    It will be good to see James Key back in F1. I do feel sorry for the other mid-field teams though, if his past form is a good indicator they’ll have their work cut out to beat Toro Rosso in the future!

  17. FernanDino says:

    Can you please elaborate on Giorgio’s recent past? I remember when in the late 80′s he arrived at Maranello a few days after John Barnard banned Lambrusco from the lunch table. When was his stint at Benetton?

  18. Jim, Belfast says:

    Id love to know about all moves!!! i.e. A McLaren tealady has moved to Mercedes or a truck driver has left HRT and gone to Caterham etc!!

    Also driver roles should be posted on the autosport job sction….

    e.g. Italian team looking for number 2 driver, £16m salary, must have Super license, be prepared to be overtaken by teammate when instructed, and preferably be German, a double world champion and have a young look. Previous experience of driving for an italian team necessary, as is the Initials SV

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      Are you just trying to keep track of where you can get a decent bacon butty Jim?

  19. Rich C says:

    “Factory” is somewhat a misnomer these days.

    The word conjurs up images of giant, filthy, greasy CNC lathes and dirty concrete floors with cuttings and grit and grime all over.

    The reality is more akin to something like a ‘clean room’ you’d see at NASA.

    We should call them something else.

    1. CTP says:

      McLaren already does.

  20. Michael S says:

    Ferrari have so many resources it seems unfair…

    1. wings on wheels says:

      I don’t understand your view.
      Should they apologize for what they have?
      Are they to blame for what others don’t have?

    2. Cliff says:

      Take a look at Mercedes below, Ferrari are no worse and judging by RBR’s performance over recent years, i’d say that they are well resources:
      Principal: Ross Brawn
      Head of Aerodynamics: Loic Bigois
      Technical Director: Bob Bell
      Technology Director: Geoff Willis
      Engineering Director: Aldo Costa

      1. Aaron James says:

        Loic Bigois- am I right in saying he’s ex-Prost??

  21. Daniel MA says:

    This is why I love F1, is there any other sport where the people behind the scenes (engineers, team principals, designers) are so important? Imagine if Adrian Newey retires or changes teams it would be very big news and it would have more impact on a team than even the driver lineup.

    1. gudien says:

      I agree whole heartedly. Formula One is a great sport because it is so different than any other stick and ball activity. As we all know it’s not just the driver.

  22. KGBVD says:

    Why do I get a very ominous feeling about Toro Rosso?

    Franz Tost has always struck me as a bit of a hot head; ever since the Scott Speed incident where it was reporting he grabbed Speed around the neck (before firing him). After that, it’s been a revolving door of a team, and you can make a seriously argument that it’s a place where good drivers go to be ignored before being booted out of F1 (apart from SV, of course).

    Now there are more fits (a yelling match with Tost and Ascanelli, as rumour has it) resulting in a key tech figure leaving.

    RedBull are always rumoured to be selling this team. Surely we’re at a point where it can’t be THAT far off. Is an extra team vote (which is pretty much all RB gets out of TR) really worth funding a team year in year out?

    Maybe they just need a place to hide Tost…

    1. I am sure that if somebody offered Deitrich Mateschitz some pile of cash for Toro Rosso he would take it. There are no synergies between Red Bull and STR except on the driver front, the banning of customer cars meant that he had to invest a lot of money in building up STR’s manufacturing capability again, as well as designers etc.
      The challenge right now is that nobody is going to buy an F1 team when they don’t even know what the future commercial arrangements of the sport are going to be.

  23. Arya says:

    Just curious if James Key’s departure from Sauber had anything to do with Kaltenborn’s promotion?

    And finally, I am glad to hear that Ascanelli is heading to a front running team. It was sheer waste of his talent in a team run by someone like Franz Tost(I might sound derogatory but I mean to do so).

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      Tell it like it is!

    2. Wade Parmino says:

      Great! :D

  24. Franco says:

    Hi James

    Are both these appointments take effect as of now or will they need to be on gardening leave?


    1. James Allen says:

      Not sure when they will start but this is the way it’s looking

  25. Ross says:

    Didnt Key state that he wanted to move back to the UK when he quit Sauber?

  26. Irish con says:

    James u hear seb and Lewis talking today about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Ferrari mclaren and red bull but both didn’t want to give much away. Wonder if there is anything there for u to do a piece about.

    1. KGBVD says:

      RedBull – Adrian Newey
      McLaren – Superb in-season development
      Ferrari – Fernando Alonso

      RedBull – Too many tech risks, too close to the edge
      McLaren – Unwavering ability to screw up
      Ferrari – Felipe Massa


      1. Waseem says:

        LMAO, Im a Ferrari fan and have supported Massa over the years but the comment above had me laughing, Thanks

  27. VRacing says:

    Mike Elliott is Mercs new Head of Aero. Came from Lotus/Renault and McLaren before that.

  28. Anton says:

    Hi James

    How much do the regular team members get paid? From the mechanis to the guys sitting on the pit wall. Does f1′s crazy money get passed on the regular guys?

    1. Kay says:

      Actually I’ve wondered that too for quite some time.

      Do mechanics get paid a lot? I mean the guys who prepare the cars, do the pit stops, etc…

      1. James Allen says:

        Yes pretty well. A number one on a car will be on £50k maybe a bit more now. It’s very intense work now. Not many of them over 40

  29. Andrew Carter says:

    Wasn’t James Key working for Group Lotus on their LMP project? I wonder what will happen with that now.

  30. Leen says:

    I was thinking more that James Key would be moving to Caterham now Caterham is moving to a better location (Leafield)

    Caterham always said that they would be able to attract the best of the best once their move was completed.. Lets see if this is true or not.

  31. zam says:

    hello. what is the course to become f1 engineer?

  32. Atanas says:

    Hi, James.
    I want to send a portfolio, can you send me an email to me to send you photos of very interesting aerodynamic package for the 2014 F1 car.


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