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In a controversial move, Williams has recruited former McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, one of the men at the heart of the infamous Spygate scandal of 2007.
In a statement released just twenty-nine minutes after it revealed that Sam Michael and Jon Tomlinson had resigned, the Grove outfit announced the signing of Coughlan as chief engineer.
The Englishman, whose two year ban from motorsport was lifted in February 2009, was the man at McLaren who received thousands of documents from Nigel Stepney at Ferrari and who was only caught when a sharp-eyed (Ferrari?) fan in a photocopying shop noticed the prancing horse logo on the many thousands of documents the McLaren employee was having copied.
"Mike undertook his training and education at Rolls Royce and Brunel University," read the team statement. "He began his Formula One career at Lotus where he worked his way up to Chief Designer. He subsequently worked for Tyrell, Ferrari and Arrows before joining McLaren in 2002 as Chief Designer.
"Mike left Formula One in 2007 as a result of his role in the 'Spygate' affair," it continued. "Since then, Mike has applied his skills principally as Chief Engineer in the development of the Ocelot Light Protected Patrol Vehicle. He joins Williams F1 from NASCAR competitor, Michael Waltrip Racing."
"Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula One and both civil and defence engineering," said Frank Williams. "He left Formula One 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."
"I am grateful to Williams for giving me this opportunity," said Coughlan. "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."
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