James Key to become McLaren's Technical Director?

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More details about McLaren's technical leadership changes are becoming public as it has now become clear that Toro Rosso's highly valued technical director, James Key, is set to join McLaren in the same role.

The news comes on the back of several departures at McLaren earlier this year. Tim Goss already left in April, followed by Sporting Director Eric Boullier just weeks ago.

The technical structure that had been put in place by Boullier when he was appointed at McLaren seems to be reverted now, with Key becoming Technical Director, a position the team did not have under its previous structure.

It is also understood that Engineering Director Matt Morris is also leaving McLaren. Peter Prodromou, the team's head of aerodynamics is still at McLaren, and is expected to remain so.

Need for change

As pressure was building on the team, the need far change at the top was more and more obvious. McLaren has gone through years of dismal performance in its partnership with Honda, but in reality were struggling to compete with the top teams even before that. Their last World Championship dates back to 2008.

Convinced, at least publicly, of their chassis, the team split with engine partner Honda to join forces with Renault, but this year found the chassis to have less downforce than their McLaren MCL32 from 2017.

Following some sensible points scoring finishes in the first few races of the season, the midfield struggle continued as before. For Vandoorne, things are even worse, with the team seeing a lack of downforce in his car, but unable to rectify the situation.

If, and when

It is unclear at the moment when Key will join McLaren, as the length of his 'gardening leave' is still up for negotation between Toro Rosso and Mclaren. Though initially it was assumed that Key had already stepped down at Toro Rosso, Toro Rosso and Red Bull's response to the news suggest Key will not be available for McLaren any time soon.

Helmut Marko, advisor to Red Bull Racing, explained to reporters on Thursday in Hungary, “He has a long-term contract with Toro Rosso. We had a discussion with Zak, and instead of coming back to us, there was a press release done. So we’ll stick to the contract. McLaren will have to wait a long time for him.”

Marko added, “Of course there’s a contract for quite a long time [until 2020]. Why do we have contracts? We have to analyse the whole situation. As McLaren is making press announcements, we have to look seriously at the legal situation, but it’s sure we won’t release him earlier.”

The team explained Key's absence at the Hungarian GP to be due to a holiday, though it seemed like a very strange moment in time, given that just one week later, the entire paddock is required to shut its doors for the summer break anyway.