McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has confirmed new technical head James Key should formally join the Woking-based team in time “to help influence the progress of next year’s car and ultimately the development of 2020” despite being unable to officially announce his arrival.

After confirming the signing of technical guru Key at July’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Toro Rosso rebuked the news and expect Key to see out his current contract – believed to run until 2020.

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CrashTV: 

With McLaren aiming to strike a deal with Toro Rosso, believed to include compensation for his current contract, Brown told reporters Key’s contract talks were ongoing but coming “towards the end” with an official announcement expected at the start of 2019.

Brown is confident Key will arrive at McLaren in time to work on its new Formula 1 car as well as oversee the full development programme for 2020.

“[With] James Key we are in active discussions and I would characterise those discussions towards the end of coming to a positive conclusion for all parties,” Brown said. “I anticipate, as I’ve said before, in sufficient time next year to help influence the progress of next year’s car and ultimately the development of 2020.

“I would anticipate being able to share something early in the new year.”

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko warned Key would remain part of his fold “for a very long time” following the early McLaren announcement as negotiations continued over the second half of this year.

McLaren is currently shaking up its technical department following the departure of Tim Goss as technical head, Eric Boullier as team principal and Matt Morris as engineering chief - the latter announced as part of the Key news.

Gil de Ferran has been installed as sporting director since the departure of Boullier, with Andrea Stella acting as performance director and Brown altering his role to CEO.

McLaren remain one of seven F1 teams yet to confirm its 2019 team launch date, expected to be in mid-February, in time for pre-season testing which begins at Circuit de Catalunya on February 18.

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