McLaren unveil major overhaul as Key departure revealed
By Ian Parkes
Friday 24th March, 2023 - 12:20am
McLaren has announced sweeping changes to its technical department which has resulted in the departure of technical director James Key and the hiring of aerodynamics expert David Sanchez from Ferrari.
Key’s exit comes as the team has taken the decision to move away from a single executive technical director role overseeing the whole technical operation.
McLaren has instead opted to introduce a technical executive team that comprises three new specialised technical director roles, reporting directly to team principal Andrea Stella.
That team comprises Peter Prodromou, who moves into the role of technical director, aerodynamics; former McLaren man Sanchez as technical director, car concept and performance, although he is unable to start until January 1, 2024; and Neil Houldey, who is promoted into the newly created role of technical director, engineering and design.
Giuseppe Pesce is promoted to director, aerodynamics & chief of staff, to support the running of the aero department reporting into Prodromou.
Alongside these changes, Piers Thynne moves into the expanded role of chief operating officer for the F1 team, supporting Stella in the mission of innovating and elevating the standards at McLaren, to be strongly positioned to be competing at the front of the grid.
McLaren changes months in the making
The team has confirmed the reorganisation “has been the work of a number of months and takes place ahead of several new key infrastructure projects which are due to come online in phases throughout 2023” which it hopes “creates the foundations for a stronger and more innovative Formula 1 team to enable future success”.
Commenting on the restructuring, Stella said: “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.
“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.
“Alongside Peter and Neil, I’m delighted to welcome David back to the team to complete an experienced and highly specialised 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.”
McLaren slide leads to Key exit
Key, who joined McLaren four years ago, has arguably paid the price for the team’s slide down the grid after it finished third in the constructors’ championship in 2020, fourth in 2021, and fifth last season.
The team has made no bones about the fact it missed targets over the winter which has placed it on the backfoot this season, and led to it not scoring a point in the opening two races for the first time since 2019.
The reshuffle means Prodromou will lead the entire aero function, using his experience gained in 32 years of Formula 1 and a strong track record of previously winning world championships with Red Bull.
Despite the long wait for Sanchez to return, as the Frenchman was with McLaren from 2007 to 2012 before joining Ferrari, the team claim he will bring “significant expertise and innovation”.
As for Houldey, after joining McLaren in 2006, he has now become what has been described as “a highly respected technical leader”.
Brown expects turn around
Assessing the changes, CEO Zak Brown said: “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.
“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.”
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