Williams Formula 1 Team Hires Engineer McLaren Fired for Spying in 2007

The Williams Formula One team is hiring the car designer fired by championship rival McLaren in 2008 for spying as the team tries to get out of last place.

Mike Coughlan will join as chief engineer from Nascar’s Michael Waltrip Racing in June, the Grove, England-based team said. Williams said technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson will quit after 2011.

Williams, which failed to score a point in the first three of this season’s 20 races, sold shares at 25 euros each in a 60 million-euro ($88.6 million) initial public offering. The shares began trading on March 2 and lost almost one-third of their value through April 18, the day after the last race in China. They rose 0.35 euro to 19.35 euros today in Frankfurt.

Coughlan will be able to have an effect as soon as this season, team chairman Adam Parr said.

“Having met him and talked to him, I was completely certain he was the right man,” Parr said in a telephone interview. “He’s learnt his lesson. It’s the kind of experience that humbles and teaches us about things in life.”

Coughlan was fired by McLaren after police found 780 pages of Ferrari documents at his home in July 2007. The team was fined a record $100 million and kicked out of the 2007 constructors’ championship by Formula One ruling body Federation Internationale de l’Automobile. Coughlan lost his job in 2008 and got a two-year ban from the sport.

Share Sale

The Williams team became the first listed Formula One team when co-founders Frank Williams and Patrick Head sold part of their stakes to shore up its future. Head is retiring after this season and sold most of his 23.5 percent holding. Williams retains a 50 percent stake.

The team, which won the last of its constructors’ championships in 1997, is sticking to a five-year plan that it set out to prospective shareholders, Parr said. The next race is the Turkish Grand Prix on May 8.

“The results so far have been disappointing and negative,” Parr said. “I would ask the shareholders to judge us not after five years but progressively.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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