Coughlan “sincerely regrets” role in ‘Spygate’

2011 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2007

Mike Coughlan has said he “sincerely apologises” for his role in the 2007 ‘Spygate’ affair.

Coughlan has returned to F1 as Williams’ chief engineer. He left the sport – and his former team, McLaren – after having been found to have received confidential information leaked by Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney in 2007.

In a Q&A issued by Williams, Coughlan said: “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who was affected by my conduct and in particular the people at McLaren and Ferrari and the fans of those teams. I sincerely regret my actions and I fully accepted the penalty given to me by the FIA. I can only hope that I can earn back everyone’s respect”.

Here is the Q&A in full:

How do you feel about joining AT&T Williams?
“I am thrilled to be at AT&T Williams. I have always admired Williams, it is such a renowned name in motorsport so I am excited to work with the team to try and recapture their past glory.

“This would have been great at any point in my career because Williams is such an iconic team, but it is made even more special because I have been given the chance to return to Formula One”.

You come to the team having not worked in Formula One since 2007, what have you been doing since then?
“I took the opportunity to help develop the Ocelot light protected patrol vehicle, designed to protect British forces in transit.

“I then moved back into racing with Michael Waltrip Racing in NASCAR. I was expecting to be with Waltrip for the next stage of my career, and they are a super team, but unfortunately it proved impossible to work on one side of the Atlantic with my family living on the other.

“So, the opportunity at Williams also brings my family together again, which is obviously important”.

You have said that 2007 was a life-changing experience. In what way?
“It was life-changing because it made me reflect upon myself and my actions. Leaving a team and a sport that I love, and then seeing the consequences of my actions on the team and its fans was devastating.

“All I can do now is work hard and try to earn my place back in Formula One. This is what I am determined to do with Williams”.

To those who feel that what you did was unforgivable, what do you say?
“Well, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who was affected by my conduct and in particular the people at McLaren and Ferrari and the fans of those teams.

“I sincerely regret my actions and I fully accepted the penalty given to me by the FIA. I can only hope that I can earn back everyone’s respect”.

Have you had a chance to evaluate the team, and what do you think of your new place of work?
“I was really impressed when I looked around the factory. The team has a fantastic site at Grove and some brilliant people working there.

“Seeing the potential of the team and the facilities for myself, as well as witnessing how motivated everyone is and how hard they all work, is really encouraging and I’m looking forward to working with them all”.

What do you think you can bring to the team?
“Essentially, the team as it stands is fantastic. It is full of intelligent, creative and determined people who, from what I have observed, should be seeing results far beyond those they are achieving at the moment.

“So while we will be bringing in a couple of new people, it’s also a case of looking at the way we work”.

And what do you hope to achieve in your time at Williams?
“Personally, I am aiming to integrate myself back into Formula One and prove myself. With regards to the team, I think we all have one goal – to win races. I think I can say that even though I have only just finished my first day here!

“But obviously I’m hoping to help bring an upturn in the team’s results and put it back to where it deserves to be”.

Image © McLaren

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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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31 comments on “Coughlan “sincerely regrets” role in ‘Spygate’”

  1. One of the most important targets of punishment should be to have the pundits think about their actions and change behaviour.

    Coughlan seems to be doing just that. Welcome back now, especially as the whole affair was also misused for power struggles. Not to mention the fact it might have put a damper on inter team espionage altogether.

    1. He did the crime and now he’s done the time. Seems like everyone wants to move on, which is good.

      1. I hope he can make Williams competitive again.

      2. Totally agree. He got what he deserved, and if he’s getting a 2nd chance to prove himself, let him have it. Williams could use some fresh blood as well.

      3. Exactly: What he did was ultimately forgivable; unlike (in my eyes) briatore, who also seems to be worming himself back into the sport. Maybe I am succumbing to double standards, but Coughlan is at least not acting as though it never happened: he is apologising and moving on. I also hope that somehow he can help williams as they really could do with a boost.

    2. Good to see one of the more embarrassing alumni of my university moving on.

  2. Someone should ask him if he has talked with Whitmarsh/Dennis and Domenicali/Brawn after returning. Should be a good conversation if it happened.

    Also, what would his responsibilities be as the chief engineer? Designing the car?

  3. I’d bet a significant sum of money that before he got caught the “leaking” of such information was commonplace amongst the big teams and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still going on in some way today.

    I also think that the whole spygate affair was blown out of all proportion as a way for Mosley and others to put one over Ron Dennis.

    In all honesty I found the punishment of McLaren far more embarrassing to the sport than any of the “crimes” that had been committed by anyone involved in the affair.

    I wish Mike well and hope he and Williams can enjoy much success in the coming years !

    1. Your right Coughlan and Stepney were both scapegoats in a previously the previoulsy “Accepted” practice of aquiring opposition designs. It was only timing and a bitter dispute between Mosley and Dennis which provided the mix and timing for the incident to be blown out of all proportion (in my opinion. I say let it go now, Mike is a gifted engineer with a proven track record and may be just what Williams needs now. He carried the can for F1 with some dignity (He could have made things very messy) I for one am glad he’s back.

      1. Agree with this as well as the comments above. WHat I’d like to know is whether McLaren are now free to develop in the zones they said they wouldn’t post spygate?

        1. The development ban was temporary, wasn’t it?

        2. Yeah, in particular I remember (I think) Ted Kravitz mentioning that Hamilton said the locking front breaks seem to be a “feature” of the McLaren cars that he’s had to work around from the beginning and that the brakes are one of the things they promised not to develop. As Tim says though, I thought the development ban was only meant to be the 2007 season?

      2. I’ll go along with the probability that this sort of thing goes on from time to time, and I agree that Mosely saw his opportunity to get rid of that pesky Dennis and took it. But I do not agree that the practice has ever been “accepted”, and I can’t see how someone who is guilty can be called a scapegoat.

        But, it’s over. Mad Max is gone, Ron has his cars to play with, and Coughlan is back in the game with a clean slate. Good luck to him.

        1. Bigbadderboom
          14th June 2011, 13:39

          Perhaps scapegoat was too strong, but he certainly carried a disproportionate amount of responsibility. But as for design aquisition, as log as engineers and technicians have changed teams then so has technology and design, granted having a whole portfolio on the whole car is taking the whole thing bit far, but were Renault not implicated in a similar allegations after having borrowed Mclaren technology to overcome tyre issues?

          1. The Renault/McLaren situation was limited to a couple of technical drawings, taken from Woking to Enstone when an engineer changed teams. That is the level we are talking about when it is said that this sort of thing “happens all the time.” Still wrong, but nowhere near as bad as what McLaren were up to with Ferrari’s data (despite what you’ll hear from McLaren fans with a persecution complex).

            Renault got off because there was no evidence of the data ever having been used, which was consistent with the decision reached after the first WMSC hearings into McLaren’s infringement (before the Alonso/PdlR emails came out).

            McLaren were forced to withdraw most of their accusations against Renault after they couldn’t provide any evidence for them.

          2. The transfer of information through people changing jobs is unavoidable in any business, but I doubt it can be called “accepted” in F1- everyone has to sign confidentiality agreements…difficult to enforce but a good indication that the practice is not “accepted”.

            As to the outright theft and receipt of stolen documents, that is most certainly not “accepted”. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I’ll have to see evidence of this sort of thing happening on a regular basis for the past 61 years before I’ll call it “accepted” in F1.

  4. Hope he gets a bit of dowmforce onto that williams so grandad Barrichello gets a decent car under him.

  5. so when does he actually start working on william’s f1 car? right away or next season?

  6. The only difference between Mike Coughlan and the rest of the paddock is he got caught, or rather got sold out by Alonso. Lets face it this sort of thing is common place but because FA made so much noise about it (in order to get the upper hand in McLaren) someone had to pay.

    1. You were obviously the last person in line during a horribly long game of broken telephone. Coughlan was sold out by his wife who went to a photocopy place to make copies of the Ferrari data. Actually you could say the clerk at the photocopy kiosk sold him out as he’s the one who alerted authorities.

      Alonso sold out the team when they all stood there with their hands in the air saying ‘Mike Coughlan is the only one who ever saw the data and we never used it’.
      Turned out that Alonso AND Pedro de la Rosa
      had evidence to the contrary.

      1. Thanks for reminding people the truth of it. And how is we’ve all seem to forgotten the Toyota affair, they actually built a replica Ferrari. What was their punishment?

        1. I never said anything about punishment being fair or that Mosley wasn’t out for Ron’s head.

          Simply stating the events that led up to Coughlan being caught and that FA had nothing to do with that aspect of the messy situation.

      2. TBF though, Alonso didn’t go to the FIA, he went to Ron Dennis and tried to blackmail him for on track privelage. Lets not pretend that anyone with the possible exception of PdlR came out of this looking good.

        Equally, lets not pretend that the punishmet McLaren got, being an exorbitant fine, AND exclusion for the championship, almost a double fine, was at all reasonable when seen in the light of Renaults suspended ban for race fixing.

        1. Agree with everything you say.

          I don’t agree with max’s comments that FA is the reason Mike Coughlan was caught.

  7. Well I think everyone most people deserve a second chance so this should be interesting. To see how he is received and also to see what he can do with Williams.

  8. Fernando Alonso and Pedro de La Rosa deserved a similar punishment.

  9. Will we be welcoming back Flavio with open arms as well?

    1. mmmm…….no.

  10. Mark Hitchcock
    14th June 2011, 22:29

    I’m glad they’re not avoiding the issue.
    His wrongdoings are more easy to forgive than those of Briatore, Simmonds and Piquet. But it does make me feel a bit uncomfortable that these people, who were willing to blatantly cheat, are allowed back into the sport.

    Coughlan I can just about accept. If/when Simmonds comes back it’ll be hard to justify. And if Briatore worms his way back in then it’ll really make me question whether i want to keep watching.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      14th June 2011, 22:31

      Actually I forgot Symonds was back with Virgin.

  11. Opening the debate about how guilty McLaren really was and whether the punishment they received was justified or not, won’t do anyone good. Things went the way they went and all that is in the past. McLaren isn’t trying to clear it’s name anymore. Neither is Coughlan, for which I admire him.

    Welcome back to a gifted engineer. As many others, I hope he can do some magic at Williams and bring the team further up the grid.

Comments are closed.