Mike Coughlan – the man at the centre of the 2007 spygate –scandal – has joined Williams as part of a massive shake-up following the team’s worst ever start to a Formula 1 season.
Technical director, Sam Michael, and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson, have resigned amid the changes and will leave the team at the end of the season.
Coughlan will join Williams in June as chief engineer and team co-founder and engineering director, Patrick Head, is set to retire at the end of the year.
The appointment of Coughlan is likely to raise an eyebrow in the F1 paddock as he has been out of work since working for McLaren in 2007.
Coughlan was responsible for taking information from his former employers – Ferrari – and passing them onto his McLaren colleagues.
The team initially denied that anyone other than Coughlan had seen the material.
But they were later found guilty after Fernando Alonso threatened to turn whistleblower following a spat with Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
McLaren were excluded from the 2007 constructors championship and fined $100 million. Coughlan received a two-year ban from the sport.
But team owner, Sir Frank Williams, said he had no qualms about Coughlan’s past.
“Mike left F1 in 2007 because of conduct which he acknowledges was wrong and which he profoundly regrets,” he said.
“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.”
The team have struggled all season with both pace and reliability.
Neither Rubens Barrichello nor Pastor Maldonado finished in the opening two Grand Prix and both finished outside the points in China. It is the worst start in the team’s 33-year history.
As The Chequered Flag reported two weeks ago, the team’s poor performance had seen their share-price plummet by over a quarter.
“Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over 10 and five years, respectively,” added Williams.
“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,” he said.
Michael joined Williams in 2001 and became technical director three years later as Head assumed the role of engineering director.