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Technical shake-up at Force India 24 Feb 2010

James Key (GBR), Force India F1 Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 10 July 2009 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 VJM03. Formula One Testing, Day One, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 February 2010. Mark Smith (GBR), Force India F1 Design Director. Formula One Testing, Day One, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 February 2010.

Technical director James Key has decided to leave Force India prompting the Silverstone-based team to restructure their technical department. Design director Mark Smith will take over Key’s role.

“I have spent the majority of my motor racing career within the team and although a difficult decision I felt the time was right for me to move on to new opportunities,” explained Key. “After four owners and various changes and challenges, to field a car that got a pole position and a podium seemed like a culmination of all the efforts.

“While I'm sad to leave a team I know so well, one which has allowed me to realise many ambitions within F1, I'm looking forward to a new start. The VJM03 is now up and running and early indications are good, I wish Force India all the very best for the next and coming seasons.”

Key has been a long-standing member of the team, first joining in its Jordan days in 1998 as a data engineer, before progressing to test engineer and later senior race engineer for then driver Takuma Sato. In 2003, he joined the aerodynamic group and was then promoted to head of vehicle science towards the end of that year before becoming technical director in 2005.

“We would like to thank James for his commitment and drive over his 12 years with the team,” said Force India chairman and team principal Dr Vijay Mallya. “Over this period he has seen four changes of owners, but his consistency and drive have enabled the team to field cars that have often belied our small size. We wish him every success in his future endeavours.

“For Force India, we will now undergo a slight restructure where Mark will take responsibility for the whole design process and various departments within the drawing office and we are confident we will have both the resources and the personnel to continue our strong progress shown at the end of 2009.”

Smith was one of the first Jordan employees and progressed through the team's ranks to become joint chief designer. After 11 years with Jordan, he joined Renault as chief designer before joining Red Bull Racing in 2005, initially as deputy technical director and then technical director. He re-joined Force India in November 2007.