Failing to hit the development targets with 2023’s MCL60, McLaren parted ways with James Key, installed Peter Prodromou as the new tech boss, and turned their fortunes around.
But given the season-saving B-spec car was on the track just seven races after Key’s departure, Sky Sports’ Craig Slater has pondered whether he was the “scapegoat” for their winter woes.
Arriving on the Bahrain Grand Prix grid in early March, CEO Zak Brown admitted they’d missed their development targets with the MCL60. And it showed on the race track.
‘I often wondered how much James Key was a bit of a scapegoat’
Failing to score a single point in the first two races -Bahrain including a six-pit stop test run for Lando Norris – McLaren were bottom of the log and cut ties with technical director Key to switch to a three-headed technical management structure.
Seven races later they put a Red Bull-inspired B-spec car on the track and outscored every team except Red Bull in the remaining races to finish the season fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
It was an epic turnaround.
But Slater ponders if Key was made the “scapegoat” for McLaren’s winter troubles.
“I often wondered how much James Key was a bit of a scapegoat because he went on the basis of that launch car not being up to scratch,” said the Sky F1 reporter.
“They knew it right from the start though and said, ‘Look, we’ve got a fix coming in but you’re just going to have to wait a while’.
“And they did so and they put in a new a new kind of management structure and it seems to be paying off and he seems to be extremely popular, Andreas Stella.”
Key has since joined former McLaren team boss Andrea Seidl over at Sauber where the Briton took up the role of technical director in September.
McLaren’s gains ‘kind of makes you scratch your head’
Scoring 285 points in the races since the B-spec car was put on the track, as well as nine podiums and a Sprint win, McLaren put an end to the myth that major in-season gains are difficult to find.
So much so Naomi Schiff wonders why their rivals weren’t able to do the same.
“Look, the results speak for themselves,” she said. “And honestly, I think they have been astonishing in the way that they’ve turned the situation around.
“It kind of makes you scratch your head and wonder why some other teams on the grid haven’t been able to do the same thing in such a short space of time.
“I mean, yes, it doesn’t happen overnight. But for them, they did really seem to go ‘Okay, We’ve made this decision, we’re sticking to it’.
“And it paid off. What an incredible job they’ve done for themselves.
“Also two incredible drivers. They really did take advantage of what they had in terms of the equipment in front of them when they had a chance to do it. They made it happen and the result of that.”