McLaren could be set to land a major new signing in the field of aerodynamics, according to reports from Suzuka on Saturday.

BBC Sport reported that the struggling Woking team have successfully recruited Red Bull's head of aerodynamics Peter Prodromou to boost their championship hopes next season.

"He's signed a contract with us," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh subsequently confirmed to Reuters.

Related Articles

Prodromou has been a key member of Adrian Newey's design team on the current championship-leading RB9, and McLaren are determined to get a specialist of his proven experience and ability on board to improve their own competitiveness in coming seasons after what's proved an embarrassingly below-par 2013 for the team.

When asked about the reports, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that he would not talk publicly about the contractual status of any individual, but pointed out that Prodromou still had some way to go on his existing contract with the team although without confirming the exact duration remaining.

"The contents of any contract will be confidential between the company and the individual," Horner told Reuters. "We've enjoyed a long relationship with Peter and he's a valuable member of the team and there's quite a duration left on his contract.

"We won't force him to stay, if it's his choice to leave then he'll leave at the end of his contract," he added. "But we are quite some way off that."

A team spokesman added that "Peter Prodromou has worked with Red Bull Racing for a long time, he's a valuable member of the team and there's some considerable time remaining on his current contract with us.

"We would be very happy to continue working with him in the future. He's part of a very strong technical team led by Adrian Newey."

Before joining Red Bull, London-born Prodromou was at McLaren from 1991 and worked alongside Newey at McLaren from 2002 to 2006, but when Newey opted to leave Woking for the new team it was not long before Prodromou followed in his footsteps.

After losing more key staff in recent years - including Paddy Lowe, who left his role as technical director earlier this year to head to Mercedes - McLaren have been feeling the strain of the ongoing sapping brain drain leading Whitmarsh to promise that they would bolster their technical team in coming months.

"We've been recruiting in the technical team, strengthening that quite a lot," Whitmarsh revealed last weekend in Korea. "There have been quite a few new starters already, there are some as yet unannounced that will be headline-grabbing when they get announced."

That had led some reporters to speculate last week that McLaren were targeting Ross Brawn, after the Briton was reported to have told his current team Mercedes that he was to leave at the end of the current season. However, Brown this weekend emphatically denied any talks with either McLaren or Honda about a future role, insisting that he was still undecided about his future at Brackley.

"Those discussions are on-going but we have not reached any conclusions yet," said Brawn at Suzuka on Saturday.

If the speculation that Prodromou is indeed the recruit Whitmarsh had in mind when he said then and news of his departure is confirmed, then it's almost certain that Red Bull will enforce 'gardening leave' on Prodromou that will require him to sit out the whole of 2014 in order to protect the team from his taking crucial current technical secrets with him to McLaren.

In possible reference to this limbo status, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko was quoted as saying: "Yet he does not sit in Woking!" while not explicitly confirming Prodromu's departure.

Red Bull is well known in the sport for having some of the best 'golden handcuffs' in the business, with a combination of top pay and bonuses allied to comprehensive non-compete clauses. According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport publication, one way they ensure continued loyalty is by only paying out title-winning bonuses to employees still with the team the following February, ensuring that their key staff are keen to stick around into the next season to share in the big pay day.

Along with the overall success of the team and a lively, fun corporate culture, it helps explain why the Red Bull team structure has been so stable for the past four years since it started its imperious run of driver and constructor titles.

Prodromou's departure, if it were to be confirmed, woud be a rare chink in that that 'iron curtain' protecting the team's secrets and is likely to cost McLaren a significant amount of money to achieve. Signing Prodromou could also be a pivotal part of McLaren's rumoured ongoing plans to woo Fernando Alonso back to the team in 2015.