Zhou and Bottas on latest Alfa Romeo hire, James Key: “He’s going to be a good addition”

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Zhou Guanyu expressed his surprise at Alfa Romeo’s latest hire—and how quickly CEO Andreas Seidl is reshaping the team ahead of the Audi rebranding from 2026 onwards.

McLaren initiated a technical department reshuffle of their own earlier in the year, which meant former Technical Director James Key was free to be picked up by Alfa Romeo. Key and Seidl previously worked together at the Woking-based team between 2019 and 2022.

Key is expected to take over Jan Monchaux’s role as Alfa Romeo’s Technical Director in September.

Photo credit: Formula 1

Zhou admitted, “I was a bit surprised. I knew things would change a bit inside the team handing over for 2026 but I didn’t expect it so quickly.

“In general, Jan did a good job and he is not out of the team, they need to figure out which department and role he has to take and if he stays or not.”

However, he added that he is open to working with Key and that he trusts Seidl’s judgment on the matter.

“But Andreas is building a team ready for the Audi arrival so I am happy to take whoever Andreas takes. He is a good guy and knows what he is doing for the best of the team.

“James will give us some other ideas and we can continue working to make a further step up for the end of the season.”

Asked whether he has any doubts regarding Key’s suitability for the role, given his dismissal from McLaren earlier in the season after the team failed to meet the expectations set for 2023, Zhou replied, “I don’t know what’s going on at McLaren and why he was booted out but they were working extremely well with James.

“He was a guy at McLaren when they were struggling and brought them back to be race-winning cars and on the podium several times.

“They both [Seidl and Key] know what they are doing and I am just supporting the decisions Andreas is able to take. I am okay with that.

“People move around in this paddock.”

Valtteri Bottas also gave his thoughts on Key’s arrival.

“I think James is obviously very welcome to the team,” he told the media.

“He’s got lots of experience from different teams before, been in different situations. So yeah, I think he’s going to be a good addition for us and looking forward to starting to work with him.”

James Key’s arrival to the team marks another significant step in the Hinwil-based outfit’s journey to partnering with Audi. Bottas confirmed that work is underway.

“The basic things are there. There’s always room for improvements and you could always get the latest machinery for every single department.

“So I think there’s still work going on to see where to invest, when to invest, because there’s a clear long-term plan. But then in the end, it’s also about human power, like you said, so we’re getting there step by step, but it is a project.”