It has been a tumultuous few years for race car designer Mike Coughlan. Having been accused in a spy scandal while with McLaren in 2007 and subsequently evicted, he now returns to the sport as the chief engineer of the Williams F1 team. Excerpts of an interview:
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.