Symonds moves to Williams as Coughlan departs

2013 F1 season

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Pat Symonds, Marussia, 2013Marussia technical consultant Pat Symonds has left the team to join Williams as chief technical officer.

Williams technical director Mike Coughlan has stepped down “with immediate effect”, according to the team. Williams have endured a difficult start to the season, failing to score a point with their FW35.

Symonds joined Marussia in 2011. The former Renault designer returned to F1 with the team following his expulsion from the sport over his involvement in the ‘Crashgate’ scandal.

Marussia team principal John Booth thanked Symonds for his contributions. Last year the team moved up to eleventh in the constructors’ championship and is currently tenth.

“For the Marussia F1 Team, each new season has seen a significant step change in terms of our growth and development at every level of the operation,” said Booth. “The extent to which we have progressed was particularly evident as we embarked on the 2013 season, when our performance demonstrated just how much we have matured from a technical point of view.”

“We have some very talented design and engineering groups in place who have achieved great things over the past few seasons and who are excited about maintaining our current positive trajectory, boosted of course by our new powertrain partnership with Scuderia Ferrari.”

Symonds said Marussia has “developed immeasurably” since he joined them. “It now has all the right people and resources in place to achieve great things in the future. I wish the team the success it so richly deserves.”

“Williams is a team steeped in success and engineering excellence and I?m honoured to be asked to play a role in returning the team to its rightful place at the pinnacle of Formula One,” Symonds added.

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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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32 comments on “Symonds moves to Williams as Coughlan departs”

  1. There’s a joke in here somewhere…

    1. Williams replace one cheat with another cheat?

      1. It’s only cheating if you get caught. I think this shows the desperation. How can Coughlan work in F1 if he doesn’t like motor racing at all.

    2. At least with Maldonado at the wheel, he won’t need to ask his drivers to crash?

      1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
        16th July 2013, 12:27


        :-) Comedy Gold.

      2. Fantastic! A separation between Maldonado & F1 would be a good day.

  2. Just like Piquet, this guy should be no where near F1. That is all.

    1. thatscienceguy
      16th July 2013, 10:11

      He’s served his punishment and has been quite open and regretful for the role he played. We should be welcoming him back, his attitude to the whole saga has been 180degrees from that of Piquet or Flavio, he has served his time and has come out much wiser and trustworthy imo.

      Glad to see him back.

      1. Fair enough, everyone deserves a second chance is a valid opinion I guess. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh because you are right he has shown regret, but I liken it to lifetime bans for athletes taking something they shouldn’t – which many support regardless of the shame shown by the athlete. The whole thing just leaves such a sour taste, the lack of punishment for Renault and the out of court settlements meaning the ban was practically 2 years only. 2 years?

        Some of us are trying to achieve things in life without behaving like this. If we’re always going to get a second chance so soon after for such a crime then maybe we got it wrong and its time to try and cheat our way to winning.

        Always felt very strongly about crashgate, sorry.

        1. thatscienceguy
          16th July 2013, 12:15

          Ok there’s a couple of things – taking drugs is a long-term thing, this was a one-off mistake. We’re looking at an isolated incident vs a program of repeated cheating.

          With drug cheats we often see them lie and lie again and deny and deny, and in the case of a certain cyclist still keep denying he ever did anything wrong. What we’ve got in Symonds is someone who put his hand up and said “yep, I stuffed up, I’ll take my punishment.” Compare that to Flavio or Piquet who have shown the drug cheat attitude – I did nothing wrong and any punishment is unfair.

          If we were never given a second chance when we’ve shown we deserved one, well we wouldn’t get anywhere would we?

          I feel strongly about the Singapore incident too, and I never want to see Piquet or Flavio again. But don’t lump Symonds with the other two, sure all three of them were involved in the incident, but only one of them has actually shown any signs of reform, and for that reason, only one of them deserves a second chance.

          1. I agree with your comparison to Armstrong and Flavio, nice points well made.

            2 years is not enough of a punishment though, I still stand by my first comment – he should be no where near F1.

            I have a question. Had Piquet not come forward, do you think Symonds would have come forward himself riddled with guilt and admitted the truth? No, they would have got away with it forever. Although it was a one off incident, it would have been nicely buried underneath the carpet.

            Pleading guilty is commendable, I agree. The punishment however is still absolutely ridiculous. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this.

        2. I liken it to lifetime bans for athletes taking something they shouldn’t – which many support regardless of the shame shown by the athlete.

          @john-h & @thatscienceguy @keithcollantine – Just an FYI, for all professional sports that are signatories to the WADA Code (which is most Olympic movement sports, except the big money pro leagues here in USA like NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL…), there is a harmonized global regime of anti-doping rules and penalties, and for a first-time offense the ban has been a standard 2-year sanction (though there are provisions for extending that to four years for egregious circumstances). A second doping violation results in a lifetime ban, though this can be ratcheted downwards to eight years if the athlete cooperates.

          So in that sense, Symonds’ motorsports ban was right, just and proportionate. Now if he was to be caught again, then FIA (which is a signatory to WADA Code, interestingly enough, though the level of doping in F1 is presently not seen as much of a problem, if at all) could or should act to ban him for at least eight years (which would be a de facto life ban, perhaps [how old is Symonds]?) or possibly ban him for life.

          Even in the case of doping, I think there must be a non-life sanction for a first-time offense because it’s unfortunately not possible to say w/ 100% certainty that a doping violation truly occurred. The athlete might not be able to produce enough doubt to prove his innocence, but there have been cases of false positives that cost athletes years of their careers and ruined their lives…but at least those guys had the chance to return to sport and show they could do it the right way. I could never support a life ban for a first-time violation, knowing what I do about how unethical and inaccurate the “authorities” can be in their pursuit of “cheaters.”

          Symonds’ case is different than a doping violation for sure, in that the guilt didn’t need to be established by scientific process that wasn’t 100% accurate. But I still think a someone accused for the first time of being a cheater should not face a life-ban, absolutely not.

  3. I suppose someone had to pay for Williams dismal start to the season. I hope that Symonds has enough time to have a positive influence on the FW36 because I fear what another pointless season would mean for Williams.

    1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
      16th July 2013, 10:35


      Williams last pointless season was 1976, it was their first season and they were running a March Chassis.

      1. They have come an awful long way since then @full-throttle-f1!

        Perhaps I wasn’t clear. They are pointless to date this season and seem, based on their form so far, unlikely to score anytime soon (barring a chaotic race or changeable conditions of course). If they don’t nail the 2014 car and start getting some results early in the season it could be the beginning of the end for them.

        1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
          16th July 2013, 12:03

          For me, the beginning of the end began in 2005. Not nice to see Williams in such a state :-(

  4. I see that rat is climbing back on the ladder. This man should not have been allowed to return to F1. The American practice that the whistleblower is punished heavier then the brains behind it all has found its way to F1. He should just like Briatore and Piquet been banned form the sport for life, that would have been the only FAIR outcome.

    F1 is looking more stuppid every day.

    1. thatscienceguy
      16th July 2013, 11:46

      Piquet wasn’t banned for life, in fact he got away scot-free. And although he was the whistleblower, it was Piquet who came up with and suggested the idea.

      Symonds is the only one who has actually been completely honest and shown remorse about it. I’d trust him and support him a million times over in front of the other two.

      1. Piquet wasn’t banned for life, in fact he got away scot-free. And although he was the whistleblower, it was Piquet who came up with and suggested the idea.

        wtf?! Where do you get the idea that Piquet, Jr., who admitted to deliberately crashing, also concocted the scheme? Is that what you’re claiming? @keithcollantine, do you have any knowledge of this? Is that a view you subscribe to? All media that I’ve ever read on the story have made clear that Piquet, Jr. was a participant in the scheme but not the originator, and it’s disappointing that you would claim that here, and that Keith would let it stand.

        From the Wikipedia on the scandal:

        On 21 September, on conclusion of the FIA hearings, Piquet Jr, who was 23 at the time of the 2008 Singapore GP, said “I bitterly regret my actions to follow the orders I was given… My situation at Renault turned into a nightmare. Having dreamed of being a Formula One driver and having worked so hard to get there, I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore. His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known. Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse.”[37] Renault accused Piquet of ‘false allegations’ and even produced an anonymous “Witness X” who supposedly provided first-hand details of the conspiracy planning, which backed up Pat Symonds’ claim that the idea for the crash came from Piquet Jr. himself as a way to atone for poor performance and aid in his negotiations for a contract extension with the team.[38]
        However, in December 2010, the Piquets won a libel case in the High Court against Renault. Renault apologised to Piquet for defaming him and paid substantial damages. The Piquets’ lawyer said “They were both treated appallingly by Renault F1 when they dared to reveal the scandal to the governing body… F1 has been deprived of the best of Nelsinho and it is to [F1’s] detriment that his talent is now being demonstrated elsewhere.” Renault issued an apology in response to the High Court decision: “The team accepts that the allegations made by Nelson Piquet Jr were not false. “It also accepts that Piquet Jr and his father did not invent these allegations in order to blackmail the team.”[39]

        [39] – Nelson Piquet Jr and his father win Renault libel case

        Renault issued an apology in response to the High Court decision which stated: “The team accepts that the allegations made by Nelson Piquet Jr were not false.
        “It also accepts that Piquet Jr and his father did not invent these allegations in order to blackmail the team.
        “As a result, these serious allegations contained in the press release [on 11 September 2009] were wholly untrue and unfounded, and the Defendant now withdraws them unreservedly.
        “The Defendant is here through its lawyer in order to apologise to the Claimants unreservedly for this regrettable publication.

        1. thatscienceguy
          17th July 2013, 13:07

          Ok I’d refer you to MotorSport magazine Vol 88 Issue 9, September 2012.

          I’ve made no secret that I respect Symonds much more than the other two, and he’s been completely open and honest about the whole issue, and after the fact when he has nothing to gain Symonds points at Piquet, I’m inclined to believe him.

          And I’m certainly not the only one, there are many many other people who feel the same way.

    2. Neither Briatore nor Piquet are currently banned from F1.

      Of the three I think only Symonds would have been a significant loss to the sport so I, for one, am glad that he’s still involved.

      1. I’m with JerseyF1 on this. I liked Symonds before crashgate and was disappointed that he got involved. But he served his time and that is the end. Many of the posts on here clearly believe that once someone has been caught doing something wrong there life is over almost everyone deserves another chance.

        1. True @andy-price, he has served his time. But was 2 years really enough for what is probably the most disgraceful act in F1’s history, regardless of his remorse?

          Everyone deserves a second chance, but when they should be given it is still up for debate I think. I liked Symonds too, but it still leaves too much of a sour taste for some of us on here I think. His return was too soon.

  5. I’m disappointed for Marussia here. They had been making strides since he joined. We’ll have to see if they can stay ahead of Caterham without him.

    1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
      16th July 2013, 12:29

      Who cares?, the car looks sick!

    2. I don’t think they’ve been ahead of Caterham since Caterham actually started using the 2013 car!

      1. Bianchi managed to beat both Caterham’s in Canada and was within 5s of Pic in the British GP, so Bianchi, at least, has been reasonably close to Pic’s pace and normally ahead of van der Garde.

  6. Williams took a decision too late. Coughlan made a disaster with this FW35 project. I really hope that Symonds works over FW36, the current cannot be fixed. Some points will be earn in base of Maldonado’s talent and agressivity.

  7. Yeah yeah, Crashgate, cheating, but what can Pat Symonds do for Williams in the year 2013 and beyond?

  8. Great choice on the part of Williams. Very soon we will see Bottas hitting the guardrail and Maldonado winning a race . Next people at Williams to complete the winning Crasgate Dream Team: Alonso, Piquet and Briatore.

  9. What a shame some of these comments are. Pat Symonds is not only one of the gentleman of the sport, he is an extremely clever operator. Out of the 3 (or 4 – don’t forget the Teflon one – he must have known straight afterwards and yet never said a word and took the win anyway), Pat was caught up in a scenario not his making, not his cause. Yes he should have refused, but in the heat of the Singapore moment? I don’t know, I really don’t. What happened was really out of character, having met him personally, and I was as shocked as anyone. He has never spoken about it, but i believe he did the honourable thing and I for one am glad to see him back. This reminds of the Tour de France. It’s too easy to shout “Cheat” from the sidelines. Have a bash at Pat by all means, but keep it objective. If Williams can find some cash and a driver – Symonds will help get them back at least to the top of the midfield. He might be tweaking the 2013 but I’ll wager his major role will be 2014 car.

    Patrick Head is still around after all… :)

  10. shame for Marussia good for Williams, sadly I don’t think we will see Marussia in the 2015 season, I think they will run out of money at the end of the 2014 season.
    And on the Symonds shouldn’t be allowed back into F1 for telling Piquet to crash, does that mean Senna should have been banned for life for deliberately crashing into Prost and Schumacher should have been banned for life for deliberately crashing into Hill?

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