Williams have today announced that current Technical Director Sam Michael and Chief Aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson have resigned from their positions, effective at the end of 2011.
They have also announced the appointment of Mike Coughlan – the ex-McLaren engineer who was at the centre of the 2007 ‘spygate’ scandal that cost his old team all of their constructors’ points that season, and 50 million pound in fines – who joins the team as their chief engineer.
The Oxfordshire-based team have endured their worst ever start to a Formula 1 season, taking no points from the first three races. Sir Frank Williams, the eponymous Team Principal, thanked the duo for their efforts, and reflected on what this means for the future of Williams.
“Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over 10 and five years respectively,” he said. “Nonetheless, they have recognised that the team's performance is not at the level that it needs to be and have resigned in order to give the team the opportunity to regroup and undertake the changes necessary to get back to the front of the grid.
“Both will continue to work in their present positions through until the end of the year to ensure that the team maintains focus and momentum during the 2011 season. We are very grateful to Sam and to Jon for their professional approach.”
It has been reported that Mike Coughlan could step up to the role of technical director for next season. Coughlan will start at Williams in the role of Chief Engineer next month.
“Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula One and both civil and defence engineering,” added Frank Williams. “He left Formula One in 2007 because of conduct which he acknowledges was wrong and which he profoundly regrets. His two year ban from the sport expired some time ago and Mike is now determined to prove himself again. Williams is delighted to be able to give him the opportunity to do this and we are very pleased to have one of the most talented and competitive engineers in the sport helping us to return to the front of the grid. This is the first step in re-building and strengthening our technical group. We will announce the next steps as they develop.”
Coughlan insists that he has learnt his lesson from the ‘spygate’ incident, when he was found to be in possession of a confidential 780-page document belonging to Ferrari.
“I am grateful to Williams for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “My experience in 2007 was life-changing. Since then, I have endeavoured to put my skills to good use in the design of the Ocelot vehicle whose purpose is to transport soldiers in safety. I have also enjoyed my time with Michael Waltrip Racing: they are an excellent race team and I wish them well for the future.
“Now, I am looking forward to returning to a sport which I love and to joining a team that I have admired for many years. I will dedicate myself to the team and to ensuring that we return to competitiveness while respecting the ethical standards with which Williams has always been synonymous.”