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Williams hire ex-McLaren spy designer
Mike Coughlan was sacked by McLaren four years ago for his role in a $ 100 million F1 spying controversy.
London: Williams named Mike Coughlan, the designer sacked by McLaren four years ago for his role in a $ 100 million Formula One spying controversy, as their new chief engineer on Tuesday.
The struggling former champions said Coughlan, who has been working in the US NASCAR series with Michael Waltrip Racing since leaving F1 in 2007, would be joining next month.
At the same time, Williams - still without a point from three races this season - announced that Australian technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson had resigned and will leave at the end of the year.
Williams chairman Adam Parr told reporters he had also tendered his resignation to team co-founders Frank Williams and Patrick Head, who will retire this year, and shareholder Christian 'Toto' Wolff but they had rejected it.
Parr had warned at this month's Chinese Grand Prix that the Cosworth-powered team, whose drivers are experienced Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado, had to make changes.
Coughlan's appointment will be controversial, even though the 52-year-old Briton has served out a two-year ban from the sport for his role in the so-called 'Spygate' affair of 2007 that cost McLaren a record $ 100 million fine and the loss of all their constructors' points.
McLaren sacked their chief designer after he was found to have a 780-page dossier of secret Ferrari information in his possession. Ferrari also dismissed Nigel Stepney, the British engineer accused of passing the information to Coughlan.
"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," Coughlan said in a statement.
A Ferrari spokesman said the Italian team had "nothing to say on other team's choices."
Parr said Coughlan had wanted to return to Britain for family reasons and would be responsible for next year's FW34 car, as well as "driving forward the engineering process" while Michael focussed on this year's car.
He said the team had carefully considered Coughlan's past but had decided that he had served out his penalty and learned his lesson.
"Everyone has the right to move beyond that. Otherwise what is portrayed as a two-year penalty becomes a lifetime penalty and I think that is just not right...that experience makes you a better person," said Parr.
"He's got unfinished business in Formula One, he wants to recover his name and his reputation and prove what he can do," he said. "I think he brings some very necessary skills and experience to this team."
Before he joined McLaren in 2002, Coughlan had worked for Lotus, Benetton, Tyrrell, Ferrari and Arrows.
"At the end of the year we will make a decision whether Mike becomes technical director or whether he remains as a chief engineer and we bring in someone else alongside him who can further strengthen the team," said Parr.
He added that the team would be looking for a new chief aerodynamicist to join before the end of the season.
Williams Grand Prix holdings made their market debut in Frankfurt in March after an initial public offering of 2.4 million existing shares, representing a 24 percent stake in the company.
Australian Michael holds a small amount of equity in the team but Parr said that did not complicate matters in any way.
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