7 February 2012
Key set for sportscar programme?
Erstwhile Sauber man James Key could be joining the likes of Nick Heidfeld and Karun Chandhok in the sportscar ranks rather than looking for another F1 role.
Former Sauber technical director James Key could be about to prove that it's not just out-of-work F1 drivers seeking a future in the burgeoning sportscar categories, amid rumours that he could be headed to the prototype ranks.
Sauber launched its 2012 F1 contender with the news of Key's departure hanging over it, but insists that the split will have no major impact on its campaign, as the rest of the team have the experience to pick up the pieces.
“The situation was not fitting well for a while, so then you start considering what can you do," team MD Monisha Kaltenborn told ESPN, "But now the people in charge of the performance of the car have already been there, so they have been in charge of it before as well and we don't expect any kind of destabilisation to happen. Moreover, the car is ready, we know what our plan is so we really don't expect this. We are not looking for a replacement because we are convinced the structure we have is the right one for the team."
While he may not be directly replaced at Hinwil, Key already appears poised to take up another position, albeit one out of the heady climes of F1. His rumoured destination has F1 history, but the Lotus he apparently has in his sights is the sportscar arm, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
The report does not provide any further details, other than to confirm that it is Group Lotus' sportscar project and not Enstone that Key is headed for. However, that does not appear to take into consideration that the marque's own LMP2 project was put on ice as long ago as last summer, while Lotus got into bed with renowned sportscar manufacturer Lola in a relationship that has already led to another F1 refugee, Colin Kolles, agreeing to run a pair of Lola/Lotus cars under the family-run Kodewa banner in this year's World Endurance Championship.
Lotus, of course, has begun to spread its name far and wide since returning to motorsport in the last couple of years, with IndyCar, GP2 and GP3 all featuring black-and-gold cars in 2012 as the marque attempts to re-establish itself. It could be that, as F1 scribe Joe Saward suggests, rather than focus purely on a sportscar project that appears to be in the hands of another, proven, operation, Key could be given a more wide-ranging role, possibly including greater involvement on the IndyCar side.
Karun Chandhok, Nick Heidfeld and Sebastien Buemi all look set for sportscar outings in 2012 after failing to land race rides in F1, although the Swiss youngster will continue to test for Red Bull, despite his ousting from the Toro Rosso line-up.
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