BUDAPEST, Hungary -- McLaren has confirmed the signing of Toro Rosso's James Key as technical director.
Key, who worked in the same role at Toro Rosso, will join the beleaguered Woking outfit after a currently unspecified period of gardening leave. The Englishman is highly rated in the paddock and in previous years was linked with moves to both Ferrari and Red Bull.
McLaren is currently under a period of restructuring to its F1 operation. Ahead of the British Grand Prix it confirmed the departure of racing director Eric Boullier, who has been replaced by new sporting director Gil de Ferran and performance director Andrea Stella. Earlier this year Tim Goss left its technical team and, in conjunction with the Key news, McLaren has confirmed engineering director Matt Morris has resigned from his role, effective immediately. Both had been part of a three-headed technical leadership team which included Peter Prodromou, who is staying with the team.
However, Toro Rosso's initial reaction suggested the situation could get complicated beyond this point.
Franz Tost:— Toro Rosso (@ToroRosso) July 26, 2018
"James Key has a long term valid contract with the team. The contents of the contract are confidential, therefore we won't comment on any of the details." pic.twitter.com/RUkmdrFtKj
The changes at McLaren have been prompted by the team's dismal 2018 campaign. It switched from Honda power to Renault in the hope of returning to competitiveness but has failed to compete with Red Bull, which is also powered by Renault. In previous years McLaren had boldly stated it had the best chassis in F1 and was being hampered by Honda's power deficit, but has been forced to admit this year its aerodynamic package is causing problems.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown gave a rather bleak outlook for the future after the departure of Boullier, admitting it could take anywhere between two and 10 years for McLaren to return to the front of the grid. It has not won a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and its last appearance on an F1 podium was the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix.