Alfa Romeo snap up ex-McLaren technical director in ‘statement of intent’ deal

Jamie Woodhouse
James Key on the pit wall. Lusail November 2021.

McLaren's executive technical director James Key on the pit wall at the Qatar Grand Prix. Lusail November 2021.

Alfa Romeo have moved to secure the signing of former McLaren technical director James Key with an eye cast to the Audi-shaped future.

The British engineer held the executive technical director role at McLaren from 2018-23, before a major overhaul of the team’s technical staff saw Key’s head being the one that rolled as he exited McLaren with immediate effect.

Key clearly though was held in very high regard by former McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who having departed to become Sauber Motorsport CEO, operator of the Alfa Romeo team, has moved to re-unite with Key as the team already casts an eye towards their future with Audi from 2026, Key’s appointment being described as a “statement of intent”.

F1 2023 marks the final year of the Alfa Romeo partnership and Key will link-up with the team on September 1 as he takes on the technical director position, replacing Jan Monchaux.

This will mark a return to Hinwil for Key, who held the Sauber technical director position from 2010-12, the team in 2012 seeing their Key-designed C31 claim four podiums, including a pair of P2s courtesy of current Red Bull driver Sergio Perez.

Speaking about his return to the Hinwil team, Key said: “I am delighted to be returning to Hinwil to work with old, and new, colleagues at Sauber; I have very fond memories of my time there before.

“I am 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.

“I am grateful to Andreas for the confidence he has placed in me and look forward to repaying his trust and working closely with him on the challenges and ambitions ahead.” recommends

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Seidl added: “I am delighted to welcome James back home to Hinwil as he joins us to shape the future of this team.

“The operation he will find has changed a lot since his time here, 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.

“James’s appointment is a crucial step on this journey: 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.

“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.”

With September 1 marking the start date for Key, it means his first race on the job will be the Italian Grand Prix, the race weekend held from September 1-3.