Sauber and James Key

In yesterday’s post I talked about F1 teams and culture and how it can impact performance irrespective of car performance.  One team I have really admired over the past couple of years has been Sauber.  Unfortunately, though, they have done something really stupid that makes me very worried.  Days before the launch of a car that would eventually finish 2nd at the hands of Sergio Perez in Malaysia, James Key left the team due to differences with Peter Sauber.

What on earth is Sauber doing?  Key has built cars that have been very successful considering his budget. Last year the team was 7th after losing out to Force India.  Remember this was a team that never developed the exhaust blown diffuser technology that was must have.  How can Peter Sauber anger the man who has built cars that have done remarkable things for so little money?  It’s as if the LA Lakers had a difference of opinion with Kobe Bryant.  You do not let your franchise player leave the team, ever.  Especially with a rookie and an 2nd full year leader with an inconsistent but exciting record.  

Losing James Key has pointed to a failure in team culture that leaves their future as the leading midfield team very much in doubt.  How can the team continue successful and efficient development without an overseeing leader or singular vision.  Remember, this is the man who with half the budget of Red Bull, developed an exhaust solution that is now being actively copied up and down the grid by none other than Red Bull.

So far so good, but I have my concerns.  Where does the guilt lie?  I have no idea.  On the one hand, Sauber comes off as an idiot and an unreasonable task master who pushed the design genius away.  On the other, Key may have been completely unreasonable and Sauber was unwilling to cripple his design team for someone who was overly demanding.  Only when the Sauber is developed over the course of the season will we know.

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