Sauber F1: Rampf out, Key in

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Veteran technical director Willy Rampf is leaving Sauber F1 to make way for James Key who just announced his departure from Force India yesterday. I was being conspiratorial and suggesting Key was leaving for Campos Meta but in the end, I wasn’t too far off the mark.

Key was apparently impressed with the Sauber operation:

“The first time I saw the facilities in Hinwil, I knew straightaway the kind of opportunities open to me there,” says Key. “The wind tunnel, the supercomputer, the machine park and the expertise of the team were extremely persuasive. There is significant potential at Sauber, and with the ever-changing world of F1 I think the team is very well placed at present. I am grateful to my old team for the past 12 years I spent with them, but now I very much look forward to starting my new job. I would like to thank Peter Sauber and the team for this great opportunity.”

After two years as a designer with Lotus, Key launched his Formula One career in 1998 as a data engineer with Jordan, where he went on to become Takuma Sato’s race engineer. After a year in the aerodynamics department he was made head of vehicle dynamics. Soon after the Midland Group took over the team, he was appointed Technical Director in season 2005, at the age of just 33. He retained this position when the team became SpykerF1 and ultimately Force India. Key was in charge of the VJM02 with which the private team took a pole position, a podium place and a fastest race lap in 2009.

James Key was born on 14th January 1972. He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nottingham. He is currently preparing his move from Warwick, UK to Switzerland. Key is married with three children.

Team Principal Peter Sauber notes:

“Despite his young age, James looks back on more than a decade of experience in Formula One – and the 2009 car in particular proved quite a revelation. James comes from a private team and knows how to work around a limited budget. With us he will enjoy high-level technical opportunities. Willy and James will be devoting April to the handover. I have known about Willy’s plans for some time, of course,” Sauber continues, “and fully understand his decision. He has achieved great things for our team. I had managed to get him on board as race engineer for season 1994. Then in 1998 he temporarily left the team to pursue his Paris-Dakar Rallye dream and ran BMW’s motorcycle involvement – a successful interlude, as we know. In 1999 he returned to the fold with the clear aim of becoming Technical Director. It was practically his first Formula One car that was out on the grid in 2001, and we finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship as a privately-run team. We have Willy to thank for a great deal.”

Willy Rampf said:

“When you’re Technical Director of a Formula One team, the job comes first and everything else is subordinate to it. I have done my job with a passion for ten years, but now it’s time to hand over the baton. Peter Sauber gave me the chance to enter this league of motor sport and I greatly value all my years spent working with the team.”


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