Written by Kritika Raj, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina
“James’ appointment is a crucial step on this journey.” says Sauber Group CEO, Andreas Seidl as he welcomed James Key as Alfa Romeo Racing's newest Technical Director.
A former McLaren technical boss, Key has been signed by Sauber which is set to become Audi in 2026. This will serve as a reunion between former colleagues Key and Seidl. Currently, the Swiss-based team is racing in Formula 1 under the brand Alfa Romeo, with the engines being supplied by Ferrari.
Key said in a statement, “I am delighted to be returning to Hinwil to work with old, and new, colleagues at Sauber; I have very fond memories of my time there before. I am looking forward to leading the technical side of the team at one of the most critical junctures of its long history as we head towards a new and exciting future. There is a huge amount of work ahead of us, but I am confident that every single member of our team working in Hinwil will have the commitment, determination and hunger to get us to the top. We know it will require time, effort and perseverance, and the dividends from this work will only arrive over the next two seasons and beyond.”
Audi confirmed back in September 2022, that they will enter the world of Formula 1 with Sauber in 2026, becoming their car manufacturer. Sauber’s then team principal, Fred Vasseur was confident that Audi will make a difference in the team for the better. Audi boasts an impressive motorsport legacy. The German brand has consistently demonstrated its technical expertise and competitiveness with numerous victories at prestigious events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship. This rich racing heritage was a solid foundation for Audi to expand its motorsport activities and explore new competitive opportunities, including Formula 1.
Audi has embraced the global transition to electric mobility and is investing heavily in the development of electric vehicles (EV) and sustainable technology. As Formula 1 moves towards more sustainable hybrids and eventually all-electric powertrains, Audi's expertise in electric cars bodes well for the future of the sport. The company's experience in electric sports, including its successful participation in the Formula E championship, further strengthens the company's image and demonstrates its commitment to sustainable motorsport.
With a successful legacy in motorsport, Audi is working on making a solid entry into F1 by signing James Key as the technical director of Alfa Romeo. Previously, Key became one of F1’s youngest Technical Directors in 2005 at the age of 33 and he remained in that position as the team changed from Midland F1 to Force India under the ownership of Vijaya Malya. Key was also the technical director for the then-Sauber F1 team from 2010 to 2012, when the team experienced the taste of success with the car C31. This design of Key delivered four podiums being driven by Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi.
When his time at Sauber ended, Key joined Scuderia Toro Rosso as technical director before moving to McLaren Racing ahead of the 2019 season, where he worked under former team principal Seidl and contributed to the team's development, culminating in multiple podium finishes and a 1-2 finish at the Italian GP in 2021.
Seidl was optimistic on how Key would bring great progress to the Italian outfit, “I am delighted to welcome James back home to Hinwil as he joins us to shape the future of this team. The operation he will find has changed a lot since his time here, but the same drive, the same commitment that contributed to making the team successful in his previous experience are still the same: I am sure that, together with this very talented and committed team, we will be able to continue on the path of growth on which we have embarked. James’s appointment is a crucial step on this journey: he has an outstanding amount of experience in the sport, not just as Technical Director, but also in various other roles within the technical organization of a team. He will lead the transformation process of the technical side of the team, giving us the tools and direction we need to tackle the future.”