James Key’s name has been linked with several moves in F1 over the past two years, as a key target in the technical director ‘transfer market.
But McLaren’s aggressive reorganisation of the team’s technical staff has proved the incentive he was looking for as he has signed up to join the Woking team.
McLaren need rebalancing after a torrid four years where they had a disaster with Honda, which they blamed on the Japanese manufacturer and then with a customer Renault engine faed little better and an awful lot worse than the two other teams using the same engine; Renault and Red Bull.
This season has fallen well below their expectations, achieving only two points finishes in the last six races, and this has prompted numerous staff changes in recent months, including the departures of team director Eric Boullier, chief technical officer (chassis) Tim Goss and engineering lead Matt Morris.
McLaren confirmed this morning that Key will become the latest McLaren technical director.
The acquisition of Key is a big win for McLaren, who need to get momentum back into their F1 challenge. Key made a name for himself with the Jordan team and then Force India, getting plenty of ‘bang for buck’ and he has continued to shine at Toro Rosso.
He was looking for a route back to the UK and has been linked with Red Bull, Williams and other potential moves. He is likely to bring in some trusted engineering lieutenants with him as he restructures the McLaren technical department. He has a strong history of working with Renault from his Toro Rosso experience.
Having used Honda power units from 2015-2017, McLaren’s switch to Renault caused optimism amongst fans, with the team previously suggesting that they have had one of the best chassis on the grid in recent years.
Key’s chance to break from the midfield
With his Formula One career beginning at the Jordan team in 1998, Key rose through the ranks as the team transitioned through its various guises – Midland, Spyker and finally Force India.
In the role of technical director at Force India, he oversaw the team climb from back-markers to podium challengers in 2009, before leaving for Sauber for 2010.
He helped change the fortunes at Sauber, too. Prior to leaving for Toro Rosso in 2012, the Swiss team were challenging for podiums and have failed to hit the same heights since.
At Toro Rosso, he’s been praised for continuing his form of creating good cars from a tight budget, with the team consistently finishing around seventh in the constructors’ championship.
A move to McLaren is the first time Key has worked for what could be described as a ‘big team’, and it will be intriguing to see how well he does with a bigger budget and more resources available to him.
By: James Allen & Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
What do you think of Key’s pending move to McLaren? Do you think it will be beneficial for both McLaren and Key? Leave your comments in the section below.