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James Key arrival "refreshing" as Alfa Romeo F1 must make "big step" in 2024

Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu has said James Key's arrival at the Formula 1 team is "refreshing" as the former McLaren boss is tasked with delivering a "big step" in 2024.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Alfa Romeo has been languishing near the rear of the midfield with a 2023 car that has lacked overall aerodynamic performance.

It has restricted the Hinwil team to just 10 points so far, two points behind fellow strugglers Haas, while seeing Alex Albon and Williams break free as the clear favourite to finish seventh, eight points ahead.

Alfa's disappointing season is prompting major changes to its car. The project is overseen by incoming technical director James Key, who has been headhunted by his former McLaren boss Andreas Seidl to lead the car development, as the Sauber team transitions into the Audi works squad by 2026.

Zhou, who has recently re-signed with the team for a third season, said Key's arrival has been a boost for the team in its quest to make major gains.

"It's very refreshing for the team in general," Zhou told Autosport. "The atmosphere doesn't change massively but just the way how we bring in new people.

"James works closely with Andreas which is nice in a way because Andreas is going to lead the works team in the future, so it sounds super exciting.

"I had a lot of meetings with James. He was quite happy to hear drivers' feedback, which is very clear just to be moving forward and to improve. It's key we [need] bigger changes to make the [2024] package a bigger step.

James Key, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Technical Director

James Key, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Technical Director

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

"So, I think that's what James is here for, we can be definitely heading in that direction in the future."

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Alfa's head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar admitted the team's 2023 season has shown the team's car needs a major overhaul to avoid being stuck in no-man's land, which is what Key has been tasked with.

"Our mindset is to make a big step. Otherwise, we'll get stuck where we are," Pujolar said.

"[James] is really working on next year's car but obviously he's just looking at what we've got now, and helping in any area that we can improve in the short term. Which we want to do because P7 is still our target."

To that end Alfa will continue developing its 2023 car all the way to the penultimate round in Las Vegas in the middle of November.

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