Sam Michael to leave Williams at season’s end

Williams technical director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the 2011 season.

The Australian becomes the most senior member of management to announce his departure, after the team’s worst start to a season for a number of years.

Chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson will also head for the exit in what will be a radical shake-up of the technical side of the Grove-based concern.

Sir Frank Williams paid tribute to the two and said that it was the right decision to allow Williams to progress.

“Both Sam and Jon are talented and driven people who have worked hard for Williams over 10 and five years respectively,” he said.

“Nonetheless, they have recognised that the team’s performance is not at the level that it needs to be and have resigned in order to give the team the opportunity to regroup and undertake the changes necessary to get back to the front of the grid.

“Both will continue to work in their present positions through until the end of the year to ensure that the team maintains focus and momentum during the 2011 season. We are very grateful to Sam and to Jon for their professional approach.”

In the wake of the pair’s departure, it was also announced that Mike Coughlan would join the British team in the position of chief engineer, with full responsibility for the 2012 car.

Ex-McLaren man Coughlan’s name is inextricably linked to the Spygate scandal of 2007 in which McLaren were found guilty of copying elements of Ferrari’s design.

But Williams stressed that it was Coughlan’s pedigree as an engineer and not his part in the scandal that was important.

“Mike Coughlan is a fine engineer with extensive experience across Formula One 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.”