Williams F1 hires controversial former McLaren engineer in major staff shift

The ebb and flow of Formula One teams typically works in a cyclical fashion. Teams rise and fall like so many world powers across the course of history. But while Williams was once a championship front-running team, it's been years since they've been on the top.

Against that backdrop, the British racing outfit has announced some major changes in its senior staff. Both technical director Sam Michael (pictured above at left) and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson have resigned from their positions and are leaving the team to regroup in an effort to regain its former glory.

In their place, Williams has hired Mike Coughlan as chief engineer. The former McLaren technical chief left the sport in disgrace in the wake of the "spygate" scandal of 2007 and was banned from the sport for two years. But with that period long since expired, Williams is apparently glad to bring him and his years of top-level experience into its fold.

Coughlan will join the team this coming June, while Michael and Tomlinson will depart upon the expiration of their contracts at the end of the season, at which point Coughlan could very well be appointed technical director. Follow the jump for the pair of press releases on the announcements.
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Williams F1 Announces Technical Department Changes

Williams F1 today announced that Technical Director, Sam Michael, and Chief Aerodynamicist, Jon Tomlinson, have resigned from their positions within the company, to take effect at the end of 2011.

Frank Williams, Team Principal, said: "Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over 10 and five years respectively. 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."

Mike Coughlan Appointed as Chief Engineer

Williams F1 today announced that Mike Coughlan will join the team in June 2011 in the role of Chief Engineer.

Mike Coughlan undertook his training and education at Rolls Royce and Brunel University. He began his Formula One career at Lotus where he worked his way up to Chief Designer. He subsequently worked for Tyrell, Ferrari and Arrows before joining McLaren in 2002 as Chief Designer. Mike left Formula One in 2007 as a result of his role in the 'Spygate' affair. Since then, Mike has applied his skills principally as Chief Engineer in the development of the Ocelot Light Protected Patrol Vehicle. He joins Williams F1 from NASCAR competitor, Michael Waltrip Racing.

Frank Williams, Team Principal, said: "Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula One and both civil and defence engineering. 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."

Mike Coughlan commented, "I am grateful to Williams for giving me this opportunity. 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."

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