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Why McLaren felt its big-money Ferrari signing was 'over-qualified'

McLaren has decided to end its working relationship with David Sanchez, who joined from Ferrari only at the start of 2024.

Andrea Stella
To news overview © XPBimages

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has detailed how the team came to realise that David Sanchez was 'over-qualified' for the senior technical role he held before his shock departure.

The team announced this week that Sanchez, technical director of car concept and performance would be leaving just three months after he officially joined from Ferrari after a period of gardening leave.

He was part of a three-headed technical directorship with Peter Prodromou as technical director, aerodynamics and Red Bull hire Rob Marshall coming aboard as technical director of engineering, with the trio reporting directly to Stella.

However, Sanchez has now left, prompting a reshuffle with Marshall becoming chief designer, Neil Houldley stepping into his role with Prodromou's position remaining unchanged.

Stella himself has stepped into a temporary position of technical director, performance whilst a permanent appointment is recruited.

Given how McLaren had managed to pry Sanchez from Ferrari, his departure was unexpected, but Stella has explained how he was 'over-qualified' for the position he took.

"I think we need to make some clarifications," Stella told media including RacingNews365.

"The news about David is part of the news, but the main news that is relevant for McLaren is that we have an updated and evolved technical configuration which puts McLaren in an even stronger position than we were before.

"What we have done in the first three months [of 2024] is find the right synthesis between the technical journey we started last year with some changes and retained the positives.

"The new recruits [to the team] don't only include senior people, but we have added many technical people, which we internally call the additional horsepower.

"It meant that in these three months, we had several conversations, including with David, and agreed that the model itself is very valid, we are happy to have three technical directors - but you need to find the technical configuration that plays to the strengths of the players.

"We had several conversations with David, and we acknowledged that his level of seniority, expertise and competence was potentially even more senior than the role he had at McLaren.

"Three months in Formula 1 is like one year in another industry, and it can make the difference with the work on next year's car or the work we need to do on the 2026 car.

"This is valid for David as well, to give him the chance of a bigger role somewhere else, three months can make the difference, so we thought it was the right time.

"We came to an amicable, friendly conclusion that it was the right thing to do, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Sanchez could have worked

The scope of Sanchez's role as technical director of car concept and performance had changed from what was originally envisaged in McLaren's new three-headed approach, but Stella feels the situation could have been made to work.

"There were some changes compared to the initial conversations [with Sanchez]," he added.

"We needed to evaluate whether this new contract was suitable for David in particular, and so it is fair to say some conditions changed.

"This doesn't mean that a solution wasn't possible, and time is a variable, and I am pretty convinced it could have worked.

"But as I said, waiting three months [was not an option] and there are some teams who can benefit from a technical director of this calibre and his appeal is now very high, but maybe in three months it is less because a lot of the work, even for this year, is already done."

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