Williams has recruited two new senior engineers as it faces up to a new future under the technical direction of Mike Coughlan.
They have hired the highly regarded Mark Gillan as Chief Operations Engineer. Gillan worked at Jaguar Racing and Red Bull before quitting F1 to take up a professorship at the University of Surrey. He starts work on October 1 and will be in action from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards. Also announced today is the new head of aerodynamics, Jason Somerville, an ex Williams employee who has been at Toyota and Renault in recent years. He starts work after the summer shutdown in August.
Gillan is an inspired signing. Although Jaguar never hit the peaks in terms of F1 design excellence, Gillan’s role at trackside drew many admirers. I remember Eddie Irvine saying that he had struggled his whole career with finding a set up when a particular understeer issue arose and Gillan fixed it for him quickly and without fuss.
Outgoing technical director Sam Michael came from an operations background and found himself over stretched in recent years overseeing the entire operation on the design and operational sides. It appears with these appointments that Coughlan will take overall control and focus on his strength, which is on the design side, along with Somerville, while Gillan will run the show at the circuit.
Williams’ weakness in recent years has been that it hasn’t come out of the box with a quick enough car at the start of the season. Its development has been quite impressive given the resources available, but if this structure is given the resources and the backing, it could deliver.
The only problem is F1 technology moves on so quickly and engineers who have been out of the game for a while need some time to catch up. By starting this process now, they ought to be up to speed as the 2012 car designs get underway. There aren’t too many rule changes for 2012, so there is a lot of carry over of learnings and developments from this year to next.
Sir Frank Williams said, “Williams F1 is looking forward to welcoming Jason and Mark to the team. They bring with them talent, experience and good team skills. We now feel that, together with Mike Coughlan, Jason and Mark can form the right technical leadership to take the team forward as we work our way back to the front of the grid.”