Michael Waltrip Racing’s director of vehicle design, Mike Coughlan, is joining Williams in Formula 1 as chief engineer in June, according to Reuters. Coughlan joined MWR earlier this year, after helping design the Ocelot, a composite-based light tactical vehicle for Force Protection based in Ladson, South Carolina.
Before joining MWR, Coughlan served as chief engineer for the MacLaren Formula 1 team. The move to Williams will mark his return to F1, and is sure to be controversial.
In the summer of 2007, Coughlan was fired by McLaren after police found 780 pages of Ferrari documents at his home. The team was fined a record $100 million and kicked out of the 2007 constructors’ championship by Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, Formula 1′s sanctioning body. Coughlan also received a two-year ban from the sport.
Williams has been struggling this season, and looks to Coughlan to boost the team. Williams has failed to score a point in the first three Formula 1 races this season. Williams is currently 105 points behind leader Red Bull Racing-Renault. Under the F1 points systems, only the top 10 cars in each race are awarded points.
Team principal Frank Williams said:
[Coughlan] 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.
I am grateful to Williams for giving me this opportunity. My experience in 2007 was life-changing. Now, I am looking forward to returning to a sport which I love and to joining a team I have admired for many years. I will dedicate myself to the team and to ensuring we return to competitiveness, while respecting the ethical standards with which Williams has always been synonymous.
As part of the team’s shuffle, technical director Samuel Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson both announced resignations that will take effect at the end of the year. At that time, Williams will decide whether or not to promote Coughlan to the role of technical director.
Coughlan will be responsible for developing the FW34, next year’s car. Michael will focus on this year’s car. Because there aren’t many rule changes expect from this year to next, there is a lot of continuity expected between the cars. At the end of the year, the team will evaluate its performance, and will make a decision on the technical director role.
The team hopes to hire a replacement for Tomlinson before the end of the year.
No word on how this affects Coughlan’s status with MWR. The team, however, did confirm that Coughlan is their director of vehicle design.