McLaren axe technical director James Key after tough start to season

McLaren have parted ways with technical director James Key after a start to the season which has seen the Woking-based team fail to score a point.

Key, largely responsible for the car’s design, has come under increased scrutiny after a start to the 2023 campaign which has seen both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri struggle with reliability problems and a severe lack of straight-line speed.

New team principal Andrea Stella, who took over from new Sauber CEO Andreas Seidl in the off-season, has been evaluating McLaren’s pitwall operations alogngside CEO Zak Brown.

And Key’s removal comes alongside a host of changes, including replacing the role of technical director with three specialised roles.

Peter Prodromou will be the new Technial Director, Aerodynamics, while Neil Houldey is promoted to the new role of Technical Director, Engineering and Design.

David Sanchez, who has spent a decade at Ferrari, will join as Technical Director, Car Concept and Performance, at the start of 2024.

All three will report directly to Italian chief Stella.

“I’d like to thank James for his hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren and wish him well for the future,” Stella said, in a McLaren press release.

“Looking ahead, I am determined and fully focused on leading McLaren back to the front of the field. Since taking on the Team Principal role I have been given the mandate to take a strategic approach to ensure the team is set on a long-term foundation, for us to build on over the years.

“This new structure provides clarity and effectiveness within the team’s technical department and puts us in a strong position to maximise performance, including optimising the new infrastructure upgrades we have coming in 2023.”

McLaren finished third in 2020, fourth in 2021 and fifth in 2022 but are currently one of two teams yet to score a point in 2023.

Norris has a contract with the team until the end of the 2025 season - but his future with the team has been up for debate given their struggles of late - while Piastri joined this year and is competing in his first season in Formula 1.

Brown added: “It’s important now that we ensure we have a solid foundation as the next phase of our journey. It has been clear to me for some time that our technical development has not moved at a quick enough pace to match our ambition of returning to the front of the grid.

“I’m pleased that, having completed a full review with Andrea, we are now able to implement the restructure required to set the wheels in motion to turn this around,” added Brown. “These strategic changes ensure the long-term success of the team and are necessary to see McLaren get back to winning ways.

“We have everything coming into place now with our people and infrastructure and alongside an exciting driver line-up, I’m determined to see McLaren get back to where we should be.”