In a recent JSBM newsletter, I noted the following: “When one Formula 1 team demolishes the opposition at the start of a new season, there are always repercussions down through the pecking order, as the rival teams are forced to accept that they have not done a good enough job, and that changes are required.

“It is a time when teams which are looking to recruit have a chance to grab talented individuals, who are on the market, either because they have been dropped or have left teams because they have no faith in the management”.

We are now beginning to see this happen – and we can expect to see more in the weeks ahead. The first sign was the news that David Sanchez was leaving Ferrari but now we have had news of a change at McLaren, and it is no surprise to see changes at McLaren. The essential change amid all the highfalutin titles is that Sanchez will move to Woking to replace James Key, who has been with McLaren since March 2019. Prior that he was technical director at Scuderia Toro Rosso (2012-2018), Sauber (2010-2012) and Midland/Spyker/Force India (2004-2010).

Sanchez and Stella worked together at Ferrari before Stella moved to McLaren back in 2015. Sanchez had previously been at McLaren as an aerodynamicist between 2007 and 2012.

In an effort to keep everyone happy, the team seems to have decided to have a raft of different “Technical Directors” who will form an F1 Technical Executive Team.

Whether managing by committee is the right way to go remains to be seen. McLaren has got into trouble before by trying to have management by committee (notably the infamous – and unsuccessful “matrix management”).

Thus Sanchez – who will join the team in January next year – returns to McLaren as Technical Director, Car Concept and Performance; Neil Houldey becomes Technical Director, Engineering and Design.  He has been with McLaren since 2006 after five years learning the trade at Lola Cars, beginning in 2001; and Peter Prodromou becomes Technical Director, Aerodynamics. The last-named will be supported by Giuseppe Pesce, who has been with McLaren since 2012, after starting his career with seven years at Ferrari, who is to become Director, Aerodynamics & Chief of Staff.

Piers Thynne has been named Chief Operating Officer.

“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,” said Stella. “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.”


  1. Don’t know how much longer they’re going to put up with ZB at the top, at some point the buck must stop there. I feel their ‘success’ in recent years is more in spite of him rather than because of him?

  2. i am waiting to hear the changes at Mercedes … this weeks video left me very concerned by their engineering leadership … it demonstrates a very indecisive and characterless situation … the previous technical lead, J Allison, exuded both thoughtfulness and confidence … that is not easy, it is very hard!

    i am many decades an F1 addict, and a practicing physicist/engineer … i have never commented on same as above … yet, i have seen too many excellent engineers promoted one step too many, in countries around the world … Mercedes, grasp the nettle, now!

        1. There is a report in the Italian press that due to dimensional errors in windtunnel models Mercedes has fired the people responsible. Is this correct? Seems very unlikely.

          1. “Dimensional errors” cover a lot of things in wind tunnel model design and test techniques. The more sophisticated the model and test, the easier it is to draw wrong conclusions.
            Misunderstanding your Reynolds number or blockage correction is a bit schoolboy error, whereas getting your model aerolastic behaviour wrong is very understandable.

            My completely wild and unsubstantiated guess would be that they goofed on the model behaviour, which could well screw up the floor aerolastics.

            Though IMHO if it is a genuine error by more junior staff, it isn’t a good look as a TD or CTO to blame the staff. The more senior staff should be reviewing results and checking that test have been done correctly.

            I think that Mclaren used to have a “no blame culture” in the mid 2000s, In reality, at least half the engineering staff would happily stab their colleagues in the back to get ahead.

            I have worked with some deeply unpleasant people in my engineering career, most of them F1 folks, 🙂

    1. It has been reported that Allison is returning from INEOS team UK.

      As a person who was around the last time ground-effect cars were raced, it seems a lack of judgment that he was not heavily involved in the conceptual design of the new cars. Porpoising was a known phenomenon , the other guy who was also around at that time now works for Red Bull.

  3. Stella is a great race engineer who worked with all the greatest drivers of the 2000s and was shoved into the hot seat when Seidl left.
    You have to wonder, what did Seidl know to make him jump ship?

  4. Think promoting Peter to a position of power can only be a good thing as I think he is a real brain within F1.

    That being said, I am an admirer of James Key, and I really hope James Vowles picks him up quickly to join Williams. James has produced some good cars for middle sized teams over the years and I think he is the perfect person to help rebuild Williams

              1. He’s done it 3 times – I wonder if he could be persuaded to return (albeit to an entirely different team these days) to where his success truly began?

  5. Joe: do you feel that the personnel transition from 22 to 23 has been more pervasive than usual? Not just engineers and tech staff but also Team Principals and the occasional female physio? Plus I recall reading that a Quebecer working in Mirabel – so I assume in the aircraft sector – is joining a team. My apologies for forgetting details.

    1. It is quite normal wen one team s dominant for the others to start hacking away at their own structures…

  6. Is this Zak’s last throw of the dice before he exits McLaren? Can’t say I’ve been impressed by his leadership of late. The shareholders must be getting itchy putting millions in to something that’s not going anywhere but down hill. Will Key move to Williams Joe or is Alpha Tauri more likely. I somehow can’t see Key going to Ferrari.

  7. Joe, Is Key leaving immediately or staying in place until Sanchez arrives in January? If immediately won’t that make McLaren a bit of a headless chicken this season? New wind tunnel and no captain to steer the ship with respect to using it fully?

  8. Who was it that reused to work with James Key when it was announced he was coming to McLaren, and promptly left the team?

  9. I believe Zac Brown is all but gone. Left Honda too soon. Lacks character. Below McLaren standards. Company is worse now than when he joined.

  10. can someone tell how many WCCs all those newly appointed and promoted McLaren Directors have so far won combined?

  11. they fired Ricciardo, now they fire Key. . . everybody are saying their cars are shait to drive, perhaps they should’ve started with firing Prodromou instead?

    1. Ricciardo was fired because of the huge gap to his less-experienced teammate driving exactly the same car.
      The level revisionism from his fans and defenders this year is embarrassing.

  12. Oh dear !
    Out of the frying pan, I fear.
    Never have believed in committees, something to do with camels and horses.
    Cliche, cliche.

    1. I’ve long hated that cliche. A camel is quite a triumph of function over aesthetic and could never have been ‘designed’ by committee! Assuming any decision was ever reached at all the deserts would be littered with fluffy, brightly coloured, methane-free but athletic and highly (vegetable) protein-dependent and doubtless smartly logo’d corpses if a committee was involved! The camel, as we know it, would probably be introduced just as the next ice age begins.

      Let’s hope McLaren haven’t made a mistake and can find away to make what appears a bureaucratic structure work effectively and above all without delaying reaction times.

      1. Have to agree with you. A camel is really much more sophisticated than a hos, just looks ‘orrible. Still don’t believe in committees !
        I’ll pick my cliches more carefully in future.

          1. How flattered I am.
            There are certain benefits that go with being very ancient that go some way towards balancing the bits that fall off or just don’t work any more !
            Woe is I

  13. Has James Key been scapegoated?
    I remain surprised that someone as talented was solely responsible for the cars performance. Unless he resigned?
    Prodromou is an ‘interesting’ character or so i’ve heard.

      1. Letting Pat Fry go was a dumb move for McLaren. Things improved rapidly when he was with them, and he has been around a long time so should have understood the intricacies of the new regs.

  14. Joe, James Key was always rumoured to held in high regard for his abilities by Mattia Binotto when he was in charge of things at Ferrari.

    Despite not having had great success at McLaren, he’s still a highly talented person. Would it be a surprise if he got a new role at Ferrari under the leadership of Fred Vasseur? Would he go to Maranello as many stories say that some British F1 personnel aren’t fond of living in Italy.

  15. Is this really a triumvirate with matrix management, or is it more that Stella is taking a more direct control of things. Do you think Sanchez new role is to creating the ability for the new cars to be developed without the distraction of the in season? It just seems like his making it a little more Ferrari like and that hasn’t been too bad for their designs, if not their strategy.

  16. Working in Woking? If you’ve ever been there then you would know it would be a no thank you. It has good transport links into London, and many other places – you would only live in Woking to go someplace else. Milton Keynes, Brackley, Silverstone, Grove, Banbury… maybe.

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