Key to replace Rampf at BMW Sauber 24 Feb 2010
Just hours after his departure from Force India was announced, BMW Sauber have confirmed that James Key is to replace long-term technical director Willy Rampf later this year. Rampf, in the role for a decade, will depart the Swiss team in April.
"The first time I saw the facilities in Hinwil, I knew straightaway the kind of opportunities open to me there," said Key, who will start his new job on April 1. "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.
After two years as a designer with Lotus, Key launched his F1 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 2005, at the age of just 33. Last year he was in charge of Force Indias VJM02 car, which took the teams first pole, podium and fastest lap.
"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, said Keys new boss Peter Sauber. James comes from a private team and knows how to work around a limited budget. With us he will enjoy high-level technical opportunities.
Rampfs departure has been a long time in the planning and Sauber paid tribute to the 56-year-old engineer, saying: 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."
Rampf, who will spend April handing over to Key, added: "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."