Motor racing-Key joins Alfa Romeo F1 team as technical director

Formula One F1 - Spanish Grand Prix - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - June 2, 2023 Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas during practice REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

(Reuters) - Sauber-run Alfa Romeo, which will race as the Audi Formula One team from 2026, announced the return of James Key as technical director on Wednesday.

The Briton, who left McLaren in March and was technical director at Sauber from 2010-12, will start at Hinwil on Sept. 1 as replacement for Jan Monchaux.

The move reunites Key with former McLaren principal Andreas Seidl, now the Sauber Group chief executive heading up the transition to Audi.

Seidl said Key's appointment was a "crucial step" in the process.

"He has an outstanding amount of experience in the sport, not just as technical director, but also in various other roles within the technical organisation of a team," he said.

"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."

Key left McLaren in a restructuring after the former champions failed to score a point in the first two races of the season.

After starting out at Jordan, and staying with that team as they transformed into Midland, Spyker and Force India, Key also had stints at Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) before joining McLaren in 2019.

"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," he said.

"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, but we have a journey ahead of us and a roadmap to follow which I am eager to get started."

Monchaux's future role was not mentioned but he worked for Ferrari from 2010-12, with that team now run by his former boss at Sauber Fred Vasseur.

Vasseur said in April that Ferrari were recruiting "massively".

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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