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All change at struggling Williams

ESPNF1 Staff
May 3, 2011 « Pirelli aims to change hard tyre | »
Sam Michael has worked for Williams for the last 10 years © Sutton Images

Williams, which is struggling for any kind of form, has undertaken a clearout with an announcement technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson will stand down at the end of the season. It also revealed former McLaren chief engineer Mike Coughlan, who was banned from the sport for two years for his involvement in the Spygate scandal, would be joining the team in June, and that co-founder Patrick Head would be retiring.

After a poor start to the season, Williams announced last month that the team was undergoing a review of its structure and that "nothing was sacred". Michael himself later admitted that he was considering his own position following what was the team's worst start to a season in its history.

Team principal Frank Williams paid tribute to the pair for their service, and said they would focus on improving the current car while the changes are made.

"Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over ten 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."

Speaking of Coughlan's appointment, Williams said he was determined to rebuild his reputation following his Spygate disgrace. "[He's] 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."

Coughlan himself has been working in NASCAR in the United States, but said that he was looking forward to returning to Formula One and trying to move Williams back to the front of the grid.

"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."

It was also confirmed Head would retire this year. "Patrick has made it clear that he will be retiring this year, so at some point this year that will happen," team chairman Adam Parr said. "That's nothing to do with the restructuring, it's just the fact that he's turning 65 and had already signalled that it's time for him to move on to his next set of interests in life."