Mike Coughlan returns to F1 with Williams

2011 F1 season

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Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Shanghai, 2011

Mike Coughlan, a key figure in the 2007 ‘spygate’ scandal, will return to Formula 1 with Williams.

The team have announced he will join them as chief engineer next month.

Coughlan worked for McLaren from 2002 until 2007, when he left the team after he was discovered to have been involved in the exchange of confidential Ferrari information with Nigel Stepney.

He previously worked for Lotus, Benetton, Tyrrell and Arrows.

Team principal Frank Williams said: “Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula 1 and both civil and defence engineering.

“He left Formula 1 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 said: “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.”

The announcement follows the news that Sam Michael and Jon Tomlinson have resigned from the team.

Ferrari declined to comment on Coughlan’s return to F1, saying: “We’ve nothing to comment about other teams’ choices.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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69 comments on “Mike Coughlan returns to F1 with Williams”

  1. To be fair, Coughlan has done his time. And he’ll be under the proverbial microscope when he returns. It’s unlikely he’ll put a toe out of line.

    1. Agreed. Despite my comment on the other article, I do hope he does a good job. It’s just that Williams are going to get a bit of political ire for this (though mostly posturing ire I suspect), so they’d better hope it pays off.

      1. Sir Frank is pretty thick-skinned. I don’t think political backlash will bother him, much less cause him sleepless nights.

        1. Well the new Ferrari quote should lay that to rest anyway!

    2. Ferrari don’t seem to care – and if they don’t why should we?

      1. Fair enough, I believe in second chances.

      2. Ferrari won’t care until Coughlan makes William a winning team and beats them, but I doubt it’s going to happen.

      3. Senor Smoke
        3rd May 2011, 17:03

        Oh Keith you’re bias is so cute, they dont care? They just declined to comment is all. It doesnt indicate anything either way.

        This is a guy who not only being a cheat is a man stupid enough to have his WIFE take the stolen Ferrari material to a commercial copy shop and not think he be caught. Whether you or anyone believe in second chances or not is irrelevan. Williams are tying their future to an obvious gormless idiot.

        They have no hope of turning things around and if this is their go to plan after they cut lose those they can use to blame to try and turn around their pitiful stock market performance, then god help anyone else unfortunate enough to had their money fleeced.

        1. I gave Ferrari the opportunity to comment, they turned it down.

          If they were bothered they’d comment. They haven’t. And McLaren said pretty much the same thing during a media briefing this afternoon. I think all concerned want to move on.

          I’m not impressed by juvenile accusations of “bias” from someone who resorts to childish insults, hides behind a fake name and can’t spell.

          1. I hereby start a campaign to have Keith’s comment nominated as COTD.

            Nobody’s going to top that.

          2. I find your arrogance very jarring. You’re running a good website but there is no need what so ever to be so condescending.
            I’ve noticed it many times and this was just taking it too far.

            Treat your readers with respect and it’ll fare you well.

          3. This is not arrogance. I was criticised in an uninformed and unjustified manner by someone hiding behind anonymity, and I defended myself.

            If people who behave in that fashion choose to read a different F1 website I will not lose any sleep over it.

          4. As far as I can tell, he just made a cheeky comment accusing you of bias (which I’m sure you get all the time and absolutely correctly, you shouldn’t worry about such people).

            The issue I had was the severity by which you put him down. It was very well articulated and effective, but unnecessary? Surely the best thing was to let him be and smartly correct him (like you were doing till the last line which can be certainly taken as offensive)

            What I’m trying to say is… perhaps you defended your line in a manner synonymous with Michael Schumacher…

          5. Oliver, Keith was absolutely on the money to respond the way he did. The comment was erroneous, childish, idiotic, thoughtless, uninteresting, and a waste of bandwidth. It’s the opposite in every way of what F1 Fanatic is about, and I welcome Keith’s refusal to tolerate the imbecilic among us (myself included).

          6. a cheeky comment accusing you of bias […] the severity by which you put him down

            Play it down as much as you like – I take my profession seriously and I work hard at it. I took the time to get a direct quote from Ferrari and reported it and here’s some nameless coward who thinks I did it all because I hate Ferrari so much.

            I will not tolerate someone who throws cheap insults around while hiding behind anonymity. That sort of behaviour will not get any respect from me.

          7. I understand where you’re coming from. I’m an online writer myself (for the tech industry, Apples and Blackberrys…) and have first hand experience as to how it feels like. Admittedly I have never gone to the extent of seeking an official statement from a company but do deal with very polarising topics and do attract quite a bit of hate/bias/flack/accusation.

            I appreciate the seriousness by which you regard your work but the point I’d like to make is some battles are not worth fighting. I found your dismissal of his accusation curt and well done.
            However, it’s…

            “I’m not impressed by juvenile accusations of “bias” from someone who resorts to childish insults, hides behind a fake name and can’t spell.”

            … I had an issue with.

            Not trying to preach here, just giving my constructive criticism which I hope you’ll consider. I’ve been an F1 Fanatic far too long to doubt your writing ability.

          8. the point I’d like to make is some battles are not worth fighting

            I appreciate your point of view and you speak from your a position of experience. But I don’t agree.

            When it comes to my reputation I will stand up for myself every opportunity I get. If I don’t I can’t expect anyone else to.

          9. Great job for trying to get their reaction on this. I guess the teams all want this put behind them.

            Ferrari stopped making any public remarks about Stepney, McLaren payed up the fine to move on. End of story as far as the other teams are involved.

            It is so very tedious to get this bias remark going again from someone who clearly does not have a clue what he (or she?, who knows for the fancy name). Unfair and wholly off the mark.

            We are all happy to be able to comment here pretty much with only little restraint to as to keep it civilized. So please don’t disabuse that trust Senor Smoke.

            The bad spelling remark is a bit of a shame, that might be pusing it a bit Keith.

          10. Fair enough, perhaps my experience is more to do with devout “fanboys” whose articulated opinions and comments include and are limited to: “Apple FTW” “iPhone bEsT”

            You’ve got a very good, well minded community here in general and I must say I am jealous of that. Well done and thanks for considering my viewpoint.

          11. davey (@djdaveyp87)
            3rd May 2011, 22:45

            TBH Keith, I think accusations of bias should be banned in the comments on here. It gets really irritating reading them all the time.

            I’m with you on the fact that everybody who thinks you are biased should bugger off somewhere else, then the rest of of us who enjoy this site and make constructive comments can enjoy it and have adult debates instead of all this childish crap!7

            Maybe time to nip it in the bud pal. You are a victim of your own success! I comment alot less on here than I used to because I think to myself I’ll be constantly flaming people for silly childish comments!

            All these frustrations I have yet I still come bacjk several times again because the content you put up on here is great. It’s just a shame about some of the comments. I don’t mind comments I don’t agree with, it’s just the sheer petulance of some of them!

          12. I find your arrogance very jarring. You’re running a good website but there is no need what so ever to be so condescending.
            I’ve noticed it many times and this was just taking it too far.

            Treat your readers with respect and it’ll fare you well.

            Haha I love the ridiculous condescension in this, commenting on not to be condescending. Priceless!

          13. @Oliver
            I find your arrogance very jarring. You’re running a good website but there is no need what so ever to be so condescending.
            I’ve noticed it many times and this was just taking it too far.

            Treat your readers with respect and it’ll fare you well.

            It was not a cheeky remark as that would generally be followed by a smiley of some sort. It was an insult and an ignorant one at that. Keith is in my opinion one of the best F1 bloggers out there and I have never seen any sign of bias when reporting events. In fact many a time I have seen Keith back up Ferrari when so many (me included) have been attacking them without knowing the full facts. It does seem however that there are a few people on here like to accuse everyone of bias if they do not agree with their viewpoint. I love this site as the vast majority of posters are F1 fans first and so generally post very interesting and knowledgeable comments. Comments like Senor Smokes above are not welcomed and Keith is well within his rights to reply as he did.

          14. I agree with you defending yourself and others, and i dont feel your comments were in anyway too harsh! Senor Smoke however it is your right to post your opinion but really?? There is no requirement for you to put someone else down so badly, Coughlan recieved his punishment from the FIA for his self admitted misguidedness. He has done his crime and now is the time for him to prove himself once more, all people deserve a second chance.

            I think everybody one here should take just a moment to think about their opinions before they post them, and follow a few simple rules;
            1, is it relevant!!!
            2, is it even interesting

          15. 3 is it even interesting
            4 just treat people how you would expect to be treated, i know it seems all politcal correctness but its not it just called being polite!!!

  2. Well Well….. and who said cheats never prosper ?? :(

    1. He was sacked from McLaren, was banned for 2 years then worked for Stefan GP… before working on some armoured car project… now he’s moving to Williams.

      I’d hardly say he’s benefited from it.

      1. Yeah, he might have been chief tech at McLaren by now in the mean time for all we know!

        Not too thrilled to see him back, but Williams will need all hands on deck to get some improvements in. Now for a good Aero guy to finally get the bodywork updates working after 10 years.

    2. Briatore seems to have been welcomed back into the fold much quicker, and not to be too melodramatic about it, but his actions put drivers’ lives in danger…

      1. Flavio has a lot more money and a lot more pull.

        1. you can be sure of one thing, Williams will have hired him with a Photocopy ban on him and his wife….LOL

          poor guy, at least he got his break again…i hope he doesn’t fumble it again

        2. i know this is irrelevant but still whenever i hear of Flavio can’t help remembering his comment on Jenson.the Italian said something like his British driver was so slow at Monaco it seemed he was scouting for a new place to moor his yacht. L0l :D

  3. At least with the poor performance Williams is showing now they have someone who can trade information from other team which should help them. I don’t like the idea there are many others to pick from why a person who have a black label on his work.

    1. Nothing for a healthy exchange of views, eh!

      I myself am not all too thrilled by this announcement, although I hope Williams make the best of it.

    2. I’m sure that four-year old Ferrari or McLaren information will be sending Williams to the podium in a couple of races, won’t it?

    3. See everyone deserves a second chance,if not the whole McLaren crew should be banished. I welcome Mr.Coughlan wholeheartedly and hope he does something to the sinking Williams F1 Team.

  4. McLarenFanJamm
    3rd May 2011, 12:10

    Good luck to Williams.

    Never thought I’d see Coughlan back in F1, perhaps I maybe hoped not to. I’m sure Sir Frank and PH will keep him on a tight rein to begin with.

    They’ll be hiring Stepney next.

    1. That might not be a bad thing to do.

      1. With both of them at least they’ll just be secretly sharing separate Williams departments methods of making cups of tea.

        Frank: Little milk, 2 sugers.
        Maldonado: More milk than water, 1 suger, 2 teabags.
        Michael: No milk, rice, chicken, various vegetables. (Note: May not have been tea.)

  5. a shake up has been much needed; the “radical” ‘box was the last throw of the Sam Michael dice and it hasnt worked. MC has served his time, for Franks sake i hope it pays some dividends.
    Any chance Pat Symonds will become a consultant?

    1. Symonds is already consulting for Virgin.

    2. Was thinking the same thing. I’d expect to see Pat Symonds being contacted soon about the job. I hope so too.

  6. Williams4ever
    3rd May 2011, 12:46

    Hope he has learned importance of purchasing own Multifunctional Printer finally….
    Whatever happened to those rumors last season about Pat Symonds joining Williams in winter :(

    1. cristoacevedo
      4th May 2011, 3:11

      hahahahahahha LOL!!!!
      at least a laser printer….. he needs copy everything from everywhere … at this stage, every new techical data is useful for williams

  7. I believe in second chances: and I hope he does well. Williams is after all one of the most historic teams on the grid and F1 needs its history.

    Have to say I did laugh at

    “We’ve nothing to comment about other teams’ choices.”

    though… since when?

    1. I might be wrong but didn’t they say Stefan GP would never get in whilst they had Stepney working for them?

      1. So, now he is at Williams, does that mean Stefan’s path to F1 is free do you think?

  8. We shall see, good luck Williams.

  9. anything to bring williams to the front. briatore and symons if needed. But we can’t allow williams to go tyrrel and brabham’s way.

  10. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel Frank…

  11. the Last Stand for Williams?
    I also believe in second chances, outside Formula One!

    Pat Symonds @ Virgin Racing

    Ian Phillips @ Virgin Racing

    And now Mike Coughlan @ Williams F1!

    Time for Flav Briatore to manage some drives…

    FIA + Formula One = FAIL

    1. Flav still does manage drivers, i believe that part of his ban was overturned on appeal.

      1. He manages Webber at least doesn’t he?

  12. I dont think it’ll be enough. The team has been on a downward trend since 1996. Whilst they have won races since then, the team have since lost the ability to win (5 years or more since the last win?).

    The fact is, other teams have better funding and better infrastructure in place. Williams is still running a relatively large factory in proportion to the points they’re winning.

    I also think losing Sam Michael is a bad call. The guy is an intelligent bloke who will surely be signed up by the likes of Lotus/Virgin/Hispania to help push them forward.

    I’m gonna be slapped hard for this by many readers, but I think William’s days are numbered. For me, putting the team on the stock market was a desperate move to generate funding. They’re using a pay driver who isnt particuarly rated by many and a driver who is certainly close to the end of his career.

    The age of the privateer is over. Tyrell, Lotus (under Colin Chapman), Arrows and Jordan are prime examples. Peter Sauber has made it quite clear he would like to leave F1 soon and is trying to secure the future of the team. It’s a shame, but it’s how the sport is evolving. Today, even with the resource restriction agreement, it’s all about the money – or lack of some cases

    1. Williams are sadly going the way Lotus did at the turn of the nineties. Losing the engines, then the drivers and then the sponsors because of poor results.

      1. Yep. I said that about Williams last year when rumours started they would ditch Hulkenberg, the writing was on the wall.

        Having said that, Hiring Coughlan indicates that Williams are prepared to take serious chances to win. That’s something I haven’t felt about them for some years now.

  13. But none of the money from the share funding went to finance the team, it all went to Patrick Head

  14. Even that 4 year old info might be good enough to make the car faster!

  15. Happy to see Coughlan get another chance, at the end of the day he is just an engineer who made a mistake.

    Even though I can not condone cheating, He has done his time and deserves a second chance.

    I was under the impression that Pat Symonds was in the frame to be consultant until his ban is lifted next year.

    Let me know what you think.

  16. If he can help Williams then that’s OK with me – but please – keep Briatore at arms distance.

    1. Oh, and well done for putting down that idiot

  17. I feel he’s was treated as a scapegoat and I’m glad he’s back in F1. The Mp4/22 was a great car and his work on it shouldn’t be discredited.

    1. cristoacevedo
      4th May 2011, 3:17

      great point of view for williams’ fans … it was a great car.
      Good news

  18. Williams needs 2 things asap:
    1. Like Ferrari, they must re-descover “innovation”. Such a big factory, but all they come up with is a small gearbox. And then they fail to develop the aero around it to actually gain an advantage from it.
    2. A driver that is not only quicker than those they have now, but one that also appeals to the masses (ie.
    sponsors). I’m just thinking: why not Massa if he gets sacked by Ferrari? I think it’d be a very nice combo.

    If they can sort these two points out during or by the end of this season, next year might well be the start of a comeback.

  19. actually his role will be chief photocopier engineer at Williams

  20. Well it wasn’t all Mike Coughlans’ fault as he still needed the documents handed to him.
    If it was Nigel Stepney then it’d be a different story as he was at the Ferrari end of all this.

    I guess if we see some Sumo high performance parts start appearing on the Williams we’ll know who’s responsible :D

  21. as if Ferrari would provide a comment for this site!

    1. The Guardian also approached them and got the same response:


      And, as I mentioned elsewhere in the comments, McLaren said something very similar during a media call I was in with a number of other journalists.

      1. Keith, we thank you for your efforts and just keep up the good work.

        I am a member at BBC’606 forum and there, you get such WUMs () everyday and when I am tired of them I get on here to get some knowledgeable commentaries. I really do not have any alternative should this forum be occupied by WUMS :(

        As we can see, he/she/it throws up a bile and disappears into thin air and all we do is talk about some1 who is not even willing to debate on his views (this is where Oliver went wrong IMHO). Senor Smoke is not interested in knowledgeable information, he/she/it is only here to Troll.

        Just my 2cents

  22. Imagine stepping up to a young Rubens Barrichello during his first races in 1993 and telling him: “One day, you will be lead driver of the Williams F1 Team.” I bet he’d have asked where to sell his soul ;)

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