Key leaves McLaren, Sanchez returning amid technical restructure

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Key leaves McLaren, Sanchez returning amid technical restructure

Formula 1

Key leaves McLaren, Sanchez returning amid technical restructure


Executive technical director James Key has left McLaren as the team undergoes a restructuring that sees Ferrari’s former head of vehicle concept David Sanchez return.

Key had been with McLaren since March of 2019 and oversaw a strong first two years as the team finished third in the constructors’ championship in 2020 and fourth a year later. However, it has been less competitive under the new technical regulations — yet to score a point this season after admitting the team only uncovered a design direction late in development — and McLaren will now split technical director duties across three roles as Key departs.

The technical direction previously led by James Key will be split into a three-person team. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Under the umbrella title of the F1 technical executive team, McLaren will move Peter Prodromou into the role of technical director of aerodynamics, with the experienced engineer leading the whole aero function. He will work alongside the new technical director of engineering and design Neil Houldey, who is promoted from the role of director of car concept and performance development, while Sanchez is a significant signing from Ferrari.

Sanchez headed to Maranello from McLaren in 2012 and rose through the ranks to oversee the past two cars that have moved Ferrari to the front of the grid again after a dismal 2020 season, but he was a surprise departure from the team earlier this month. Sanchez will take up the role of technical director of car concept and performance from January 1, 2024 after a period of leave.

Further changes see Giuseppe Pesce promoted into the role of director of aerodynamics and chief of staff to work under Prodromou, and Piers Thynne becoming chief operating officer of the F1 team to support team principal Andrea Stella.

“Firstly, 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.

“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 maximize performance, including optimizing the new infrastructure upgrades we have coming in 2023.

“Alongside Peter and Neil, I’m delighted to welcome David Sanchez back to the team to complete an experienced and highly specialized technical executive team, with the collective aim of delivering greater on-track car performance.

“I’m looking forward to continuing working together with Piers, who will play a fundamental role to define and deliver the plans to create an innovative and effective F1 team.”

During his time at Ferrari, David Sanchez, pictured here with Sebastian Vettel in 2018, was instrumental in guiding the Scuderia back to winning form. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Sanchez’s return is a significant hire given his work on recent Ferrari cars, and the Frenchman says the new wind tunnel that is set to be operational later this year should help get even more out of the technical team.

“I’m excited to be returning to the team in Woking and look forward to working alongside Peter and Neil and the rest of the team to achieve our performance objectives,” Sanchez said. “McLaren has always had an extremely talented group of people and alongside the new infrastructure upgrades coming online this year, we have an exciting prospect ahead that I’m delighted to be a part of.”