Who is next in leadership as James Key leaves McLaren?

With James Key's departure, the question remains: who will take the helm at McLaren next?

James Key is a British engineer who has worked in Formula One and was most recently the executive technical director of McLaren. However, he's now pulling out of the role. 

From 2014-2018 season, Eric Boullier was team boss but was overthrown in the summer of 2018. Also in that year, Matt Morris, the chief engineer was ditched, and because of a poor start to the season with the car MCL33, Tim Goss, the chief technical officer also lost his position. 

Because of his expertise, James Key was sought to replace Goss, as he had been in charge of some decent and vying machines for Toro Rosso. 

At present, the MCL60 did not perform quite well and hence the team boss Andrea Stella doubts that they can challenge the top 4 current teams. Andreas Seidl is also leaving for Audi. 

So, who is taking over?

James Key did not leave a farewell message, which might suggest that it was not to his liking. McLaren now wants a team, compared to a single person overseeing the work, effective immediately.  

Peter Prodromou is a British/Greek-Cypriot aerodynamicist and engineer, currently working as Technical Director for the McLaren F1 team. He worked with Morris and Goss since 2017. He initially joined McLaren in 1991, helping with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). In the year 2000 he became McLaren’s Head of Aero, replacing Henri Durand. He worked closely with Adrian Newey, and one of their greatest accomplishments was the MP4/20. Later in 2006, Red Bull took Newey and Prodromou also left. In late 2014, Prodromou came back.

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David Sanchez is a French F1 engineer who was formerly the Chief Engineer, Vehicle Concept at Scuderia Ferrari F1 team. He is set to go back to McLaren as from January 2024 following his choice to leave Ferrari. He will take the position of Technical Director for Car Concept and Performance. He joined F1 in January 2005 as an aerodynamicist when, in January 2005, working with Fernando Alonso. When he went to McLaren in 2007 he assumed the role of Senior Aerodynamics, becoming the Aerodynamic Team Leader in mid-2009. In late 2021 Sanchez went to join Ferrari as their principal aerodynamicist. Come 2019 he became the head of aerodynamics, being promoted to Chief Engineer for Vehicle Concept in 2021. Recently, he declared that he was leaving Ferrari for McLaren.

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Neil Houldey will be serving as the new Technical Director for Engineering and Design. After college, Houldey spent a few years working at Lola Cars as a design engineer and project leader. Later on in 2006 he went on to join McLaren as a design engineer. Years have passed since then, and he also hasn't been stagnant career wise. He's went from deputy head of design to deputy design director and presently director of car concept and performance development.

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These technical changes are being made as it seems Key was blamed for the failure of MCL60. This is drawn from the fact that Houldey and Prodromou are still part of the team, with Sanchez being rehired. Not to mention Zak Brown's statement when he said, "It’s important now that we ensure we have a solid foundation for 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 restructuring required to set the wheels in motion to turn this around.”

However, can we really put all the blame on Key, seeing that McLaren admitted to having an outdated wind tunnel and simulator? Not to mention that McLaren's cars cost Daniel Ricciardo and Stoffel Vandoorne their careers. And all this was way before Key joined their team. 

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