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Symonds joins Williams as chief technical officer while Coughlan leaves team
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Jul 2013   |  4:27 pm GMT  |  80 comments

Pat Symonds has joined Williams as chief technical officer and will start work with the Grove-based team next month.

The 60-year-old received a ban from the sport for his role in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix crash-gate scandal while working for Renault.

He returned with Marussia in 2011 as a technical consultant under the terms of the ban which expires this year and will start work with Williams, who have yet to score a point this season in nine races, on August 19.

Williams also announced that current technical director Mike Coughlan has left the team with immediate effect.

Symonds said: “Williams is a team steeped in success and engineering excellence and I’m honoured to be asked to play a role in returning the team to its rightful place at the pinnacle of Formula 1.

“Sir Frank, [chief executive] Mike [O’Driscoll] and [deputy team principal] Claire [Williams] have put in place the foundations for success and I’m immensely excited to begin this new challenge.”

Team principal Sir Frank Williams added: “I’m delighted that Pat is joining the team. His technical capabilities and sporting successes speak for themselves and I’m sure that his knowledge and leadership will contribute considerably to the success that all of us at Williams are working hard to achieve.”

Williams group chief executive officer Mike O’Driscoll said: “Pat brings unrivalled technical and managerial skills in addition to a proven ability to deliver on track results.

“Our commitment to return Williams to winning ways is absolute and this appointment is yet more evidence of our collective desire to return the team to the position it deserves.”

Marussia said they would announce plans “for the continued development of its growing technical operation in due course”.

Marussia team principal John Booth added: “We have some very talented design and engineering groups in place who have achieved great things over the past few seasons and who are excited about maintaining our current positive trajectory, boosted of course by our new powertrain partnership with Ferrari.

“We would like to thank Pat for the contribution he has made to the development of that structure. We look forward to announcing plans for our continued growth when it is appropriate to do so.”

Symonds has worked in Formula 1 for 30 years, building a great reputation as an engineer. He worked with Ayrton Senna at Toleman in 1984 and then Michael Schumacher at Benetton during which time the team won two drivers’ titles and one constructors’ title.

Two more drivers’ titles and two constructors’ titles followed when he moved to Renault, working with Fernando Alonso.

Of Coughlan’s departure, Williams said in a statement: “The team thanks him for the significant contribution he has made since 2011 and wishes him well in his future endeavours.”

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Now here is a man who knows a good winning strategy!

I'm sorry if I hold a grudge. Yes, this man has contributed to F1. Yes, we all deserve second chances. However, there are a few actions that are the exception, and what happened at Crashgate is in my view that exception.

Working anywhere is not a right. It's a privelege that comes with responsibilities. Especially at senior level Symonds wishes to work at. You break that responsibility, so long to you! That a many who played a key role in that event is now a Chief Technical officer is simply unfortunate.

Alan from Toronto, Canada

Hi Sebee,

Regarding your reply to ShaBooPi:

"Fortunately, Schumacher’s actions did not decide a championship and in each case they were in vain. However, Crashgate did decide a championship in my view."

Don't forget that what happened in both 1994 and 1997 did decide the championship. In 1994 Damon would have been the World Champion had Schumi not crashed into him after hitting a wall. In 1997 had he succeeded in taking Jacques out Schumi would have been 1997 World Champion.


Wrong again! I just watched it and it was Schumi who was 2 wheeling. 1994 facts in my head are all scrambled. 🙂

I have to say, there is no way to commit 100% that it was on purpose. He may have had a broken front right. With all that was happeneing he may have not seen Hill coming through the turn. Schumi was quite good living in the gray zone. Monaco 2006 quali is another example of we can't be 100% sure. doubt about that one.


No doubt on Monaco either, he was sent to the back for a reason.


Oh snap! You're right! Somehow I thought the Hill crash happened in 1996, but in deed Schumi won the first with that 2 wheelin' Hill hit in 1994.

Question stands though. How are these incidents with Prost, Senna, Schumi...all on purpose crashes, different from Crashgate?


[mod] Are Williams aware it is starting to look as if they are actively searching for staff with no moral compass?

What next, will Sir Frank be teaming up with Briatore?

I know Williams has hit rock bottom, but it has gotten to the point where one can no longer even root for them as the underdog.


He messed up, he got caught, he got punished, he paid the price. End of story.

No need for further punishment or exclusion from anywhere.

What makes you think that he didn't learn from it, as you seem to think he still has "no moral compass"?

I think that the moral standards of some commenters here have hit rock bottom. That "once convicted, forever guilty, no matter if lawfully punished" attitude makes me sick, seriously!


He was banned for life.

That was the initial rulling and it was correct. He should be working elsewhere.


Symonds was levied a ban and duly served it.

We live in a world where the guilty are only asked to pay for their misdeeds once.

He did - so move on.


FIA ruled for lifetime ban as punishment. So no...he hasn't served it.


Actually, he was given a 5 year ban (which was then lifted). Regardless, his ban would have been up anyway by this year.

It's Flav that had the lifetime ban.


Actually Tribunal ruled for Lifetime ban.



Is there an obsession for hunting for a scapegoat?


Williams are not in a position to be righteous...


cant argue with that,spot on.


Symonds contribution to that sorted affair was minimal; and there were players who got off scot-free and continue, uninterrupted, to this day.

So, Symonds has paid the price, at least as much was his due.

Hopefully he can restore credibility to the revered Williams brand.


For all of thee righteous contributors, who seem to know more than I, please bring forward your 'facts' on the crashgate.

Here are some facts:

1. Pat Symonds is a TECHNICAL Director, and wasn't he working in this capacity at the Valencia race in question?

2. The only person who benefitted from the affair, walked away without a scratch, after taking actions during the race in seeming close coordination and timing with the incident in question.

3. Flavio is Flavio! (his record speaks for itself).

Here is my point, Pat was in the wrong place, working with individuals of highly self-centred perspectives, at the wrong time.

Theer is no argument from me that Nelson jr. got a raw deal, but then again, easy come (father F1 GP champion), easy go.

Incidentally, I couldn't care less about the career of Pat Symonds, but I would like to see Williams back on track to regular podiums.


I totally agree with this 100percent.


You have literally no idea what so ever how minimal his contribution was. None. So do not state this as a fact here.


Minimal???? Oh, of course, it was all Piquet's idea...


That's actually what Pat said to the to the FIA if I remember right.

That is until he was outed apparently by someone within Renault who wasn't willing to be part of the plan and then Symonds had to admit that it was he who ordered Jr. to crash, along with what lap and what corner.

Man...I was just starting to forget this mess.


Oh, and as for the Williams brand, one may wonder if the Coughlan and Symonds associations are making life difficult for the Williams Marketing and Sponsorship department team.


Yeap! They are the Bonnie and Clyde's of F1. And certain Mr. Brawn isn't far behind either.


Spare me the weight of his contribution.

It is by far the most dispicable act we have seen in F1. Any level of involvement in planning it is inexcusable. End of.

You know who is the only person I'm willing to hear excuses from? Jr. Since the level of pressure and power held over him was equal to about 10 tons. But I'm not at all offended that Jr. is not in F1 anymore either to be honest. Althought in his case it's more about marketability.


Who says it was Pat alone?

However, he saw to plan's execution and as I said, he is is too intelligent to not have seen he was way over the line. Lifetime ban way over.


Do you really think that the plan to have Jr. crash, so that FA could have a better chance of scoring higher, originated with Pat Symonds?!?

Even if he was the one to transmit the instructions to PK Jr., it seems overwhelmingly likely that the plan: origination, and decision to implement, came from other, exceedingly likely, person(s), non?

What is your theory?


Junior is gone and so it should be. But I entirely agree that his entire career and everything he had worked for was possibly being held to ransome by these men in positions of power.

Junior will never return to F1, his reputation is damaged forever. Whereas Falvio could not care less and Pat is back on the gravy train.


Give the guy a break, we all know who the architect of 'crashgate' was, yes Pat could have put his head above the parapet before the race, but who would have believed him ? with Flavio huddled in Bernie's bus protesting his innocence and more than likely blaming Pat for the whole thing.


You reap what you sow.

He was too old and too smart to plead ignorance in this situation.

He knew what was being proposed.

He knew the consequence.

He was basically taking a wiz on the sport from which he made a living. If you wish to argue if it was a big wiz or small wiz by all means, feel free. It was a wiz nonetheless. To me that is inexcusable for someone of his seniority and intellect.

Sure, he would have broken his relationship with Flavio if he confronted him prior to the GP, and with what consequences? Ferrari, Mercedes, RBR - won't touch this man with a 10 foot pole right now. Where as they would have perhaps if his integrity was intact.


kenneth chapman, far too many F1 fans never climb onto their moral high horse and take it for a canter in the first place. F1 is a dirth of morals as it is. We should all remain firmly astride our moral high horses, ensuring they are well fed and ready to gallop at a moment's notice.

Far too many fans excuse the appalling behavior of those involved in F1 with ambiguous, amorphous comments like 'nothing is ever black and white', 'F1 has always been this way' and 'welcome to the real world'. These statements mean nothing and have no substance at all when you shine a light on them.


i would suggest that you get off your high moral horse. nothing is ever black and white and unless you are privy to intimate detail of that event your protestations are just so much 'wind in the willows'.


I don't necessarily disagree, but welcome to the real world.


Good response! Sebee I know you hold a grudge but if you think all the other guys in F1 are squeaky clean you're crazy...we see hints and signs of cheating all the time, and that is just what we see, imagine what we don't see. I just wish he'd joined a bigger team. If he does well here they'll come a'knockin.


He's been on the podium in every Singapore GP bar one, and done so every year in a slower car than Vettel, so he's better here. My username isn't "Alonsoee" so you can take me a little more seriously 😛



Alonso? Best? Take away the fixed win and he has won it once. Vettel is the man clearly. 😉


To be honest I don't think Schumacher was admired for the contacts with Hill and Villenueve. His overall admiration came layer after his latter accomplishments. Senna was different... he had a disagreement with the starting position on the track and having won pole he believed he was being forced to start on the dirty side of the track. He said he would not let Prost lead after first corner and he finished what he said. Schumachers were desperate manouvers both times. Sennas was a statement.

In anycase I just think Symonds was punished and it should be over as there are many other guilty parties overlooked. The Singapore GP at crashgate Alonso was consistently fastest over the weekend, he might have won anyway. He is the best driver for the Singapore Grand Prix by far as his record shows...and I'm a Singaporean myself 😛



To be more concise, is what Prost, Senna, Schumi did comparable to a flagrant foul?

And what Flavio and Pat did comparable to fixing a championship match?

I think that comparison may be better at mapping these events on a "wrong" scale.



Fortunately, Schumacher's actions did not decide a championship and in each case they were in vain. However, Crashgate did decide a championship in my view.

I think we can all agree that Schumi's actions are a big stain on his record. I think it's intersting that Karma didn't allow his actions to have impact, that he continued to be champinoship-less for years after, and that his desperation at the time was shown to be wrong. Hate to bring Alonso into this, but it's interesting that he's walking the same path since Crashgate. Perhaps he should have surrendered that trophy and that win.

I would like to actually hear a discussion and thoughts about how Schumi's actions are any different from Crashgate. It would be interesting.

I think that one thing that sets it apart is the fact that drivers accept the risks and they did the act. There was something evil yet interesting about Schumi declaring his intentions ahead of the race. Fans enjoyed this drama and similar things happend in seasons before with Senna and Prost. Who doesn't smile at that footage of Senna in Japan after he takes Prost out? Which in itself is interesting fan reaction. What sets those intentional crashes apart from Crashgate? Is it the fact that a man who doesn't risk his life is demanding actions of others that risk their lives? I think that's the big differentiation. Is it the fact that those drivers were unwilling to yield for their own interests vs. crashing to fix a race result for another driver?


Okay so piquet junior was told to hit a wall. He and everyone involved is a criminal. So what of Michael Schumacher and his multiple accidents to decide world titles? Should he be banned for 5 years? He purposefully crashed into drivers instead of just a wall. In my opinion that's more dangerous. If you are going to come down on Symonds then come down on everyone. Someone decides to touch a wall, while there is mass breaking of rules everywhere else. At least for me Symonds paid the price, instead of rehashing the obvious I'd contemplate the dozens that got away.


Some times I just don't understand F1 fans at all. Instead of demanding honesty in our sport the majority of you justify dishonesty with ridiculous lines like 'well everyone does it' or 'that's just how F1 works'.

This guy was involved in a situation where a young driver was told to crash his car on purpose, risking injury to himself, other drivers, marshalls and spectators.

What if a Marshall had been killed cleaning away the debris? What if a tyre had gone into the crowd? It is NOT ok to say 'welcome to the real world' just because these things did not happen. There was always a possibility of this happening and they just went right ahead with the plan anyway.

It seems to me that F1 fans get exactly what they deserve when they justify these sorts of actions.

Yes he was given a ban and he served it. So punishment has been levied. However, that does not mean we should all be so bloody ambivilent about the whole sickening affair.


So... Out with one controversial technical director and in with another!

Someone had to take the blame for Williams' dismal showing this year, Coughlan was the obvious candidate. He certainly couldn't argue he was taking the team forward this year. I'm curious as to the immediate departure though. Any insight into what brought it about so precipitously James or Mark?


" the immediate departure though. Any insight into what brought it about so precipitously?"

How about the fact that Williams continue in free-fall and Coughlan obviously wasn't delivering? idk, but sometimes dramatic action is needed in order to head-off an even worse disaster (like delisting?!)!


Well, sure, that's the obvious answer isn't it. Although I'd have assumed there would have been some rumblings about it before hand if it was simply down to the fact the car is a stinker this year and isn't improving. The change just seems to have come very suddenly, without the usual preceding rumours that accompany these types of moves in F1.

I don't disagree with your suggestion, I just wonder if there is more too it.


Well, Williams is "nowhere" in 2013 so they have to do anything they can, but I think this is not the way to go! Both, Symonds and Coughlan, should not be in F1, that's my opinion. If everything we know from them is true and besides that they still hang around, then F1 is in very bad "shape"!



Does anyone knows what current price are

the Williwms shares?.

I fear the end not to far away,sad as once

a mighty with the success a very few can

boast about it.

Very sad indeed.


Wouldn't be too negative as it was just last year they had a decent car at the start of the season anyway.


Symonds can have little impact on next year's car at this late date. I hope I'm wrong, but this move smacks of despair, of flailing about in deep water, trying to avoid going down for the third time.

The last time the team was consistently competitive was 10 years ago, during the BMW period. And Williams hasn't produced a champion, and anything like a dominant car, since the 1990s: As I have said before, and it is sad, Williams has become Tyrrell: A once great team with an iconic leader, now become a nostalgia piece - rose-colored glasses for those who pine for "the way it used to be."


I disagree about potential impact on next year's car. yes, there is a long planning and development cycle, but experience like his makes a difference at every step along the way to delivery of the machinery.

There is ample oppotunity for PS to favourably impact the development of the 2014 Williams car.


James, did coughlan leave on his accord or was he sacked?


Sacked most likely.

If he left of his own accord he likely would have, in my opinion, been rewarded with the opportunity to announce his departure himself.

The short, brusque, statement by Williams doesn't make it look any better.




Maybe third time lucky after Sam Michael then Mike Coughlan.

Having been banned for five years and having his reputation, quite correctly tore to shreds it is time I feel to move on. Additional penalty it seems is the fact that a job at a leading top 5 or 6 team does not seem out there.

This a good move by Williams and lets hope it proves a success .


I'm not convinced yet. For one thing, Sam Michael seemed to be too inexperienced and got too much weight on his shoulders, but without him it got even worse. Coughlan went through many teams, but I have a hard time linking any team's success to him, as it always seemed that other people, like Newey, had more significance.

Pat Symonds has worked most of his time in Enstone with the Benetton/Renault/Lotus-Team, and while it went through good and bad phases other people like Gascoyne, Bell and Allison seemed to have a bigger impact on the team's performance, just like with Coughlan.

So unless something convinces me of the opposite, I'd like to state, as a bartender would say, that Williams have been trading an apple for an apple, while being in need of a pear.


Great news for Williams! While it will be controversial, Pat Symonds knows what it takes to win and his roles with Bennetton and Renault demonstrate his winning credentials. He should fit in well with Williams' no nonsense approach to racing. I really hope that Pat can help the team get back to the front of the grid.


Coughlan shouldn't be too despondent. There will surely be a space at Mercedes for him.



Do you have any info on Mike Coughlan's departure? Something seems fishy.


Small correction, he did not "move" to Renault, Benetton became Renault, Pat stayed put. In fact, his 2 years with Marussia are the first that he's ever worked with away from Team Enstone.


Williams replace their Spygate-implicated technical director with a Crashgate-implicated chief technical officer ... We are waiting for Briatore return

Tornillo Amarillo

How is Williams Human Resources checking the résumés? Is it not important in F1 having an immaculate Curriculum Vitae, at least to drag sponsors, good publicity, etc.?

Because if you take bad decisions in one field of your company, probably you get bad results overall.

“The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have 'improved.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


Williams really believes that they can succeed by hiring 2 masterminds of the biggest F1 scandals in decades?

Irony...I really wish Willians well....but bad tree cannot have good fruits


No coincidence that Mclaren have slumped since Sam Michael joined - just do not rate the bloke at all, exactly what has he ever achieved in F1? Best of luck to Williams, Symonds has pedigree and could just well be what Williams need in these tough times.


Intersting also that Renault power is in the Williams cars while Pat is there in 2013. But of course, not for long.


Big deal.. He's done his time, let him make up for it. I really hope he turns the Williams team around. F1 needs them to be successful again.

As for cheating and all that. There have been plenty of cheats who got away with their schemes, sometimes quite successfully.

Move on people. It's F1, they're not saving humanity here...


this is the best move williams has made since they asked [mod] patrick head to stay away. anyone who goes to all lengths to copy the opposition can't be that good or confident of their abilities. replay him with simmons is a royal move. by 2015 williams will be back scoring points as consistantly as they did in partnership with bmw. now they need a fresh set of first class graduates from the likes of imperial college under simmons' wings and the fruits will all ripe at once.

Douglas Revill

Great news for Williams. Here is a man who can help to bring them to the front of the grid. 2014 and beyond is looking good.

Here is a sport that pushes and exceeds the boundaries of what is legal all the time. Aren't we getting a bit high and mighty to single one man out? Good on you Pat - I for one am excited to see you back running the technical side of a team, and can't wait to see the results over the next few years!


Great news. Unlike a lot of people on this page, I am thrilled with the fact that Williams was able to snap up someone of the calibre of Pat Symonds.

I always felt the all the hoo-hah with regards to the Crashgate scandal was a bit out of proportions.

The blur surrounding this case, be it witness X or Max Mosley's personal vendetta on Flavio Briatore tainted both Briatore and Symonds personal success to date more than it should have.

Crashing deliberately into another driver gets you black flagged. Crashing your own driver into the wall so that the other one has a shot at victory was very clever as far as I am concerned, and did not deserved the witch-hunt that followed. Other will disagree with me, and I'm fine with it.

Coughlan, Gillan and Sommerville did a great job last year with the FW34, returning Williams F1 to the winner's circle at the Spanish Grand Prix.

It might be a bit late to turn around the team's fortune for the remainder of the season, however, Symonds input should start to be felt in 2014.


Excellent. Good to see Pat back. Heaven's above, Williams needs an experienced leader at the moment. Pat fits the bill.


Interesting. I swear I remember reading a quote from Adrian Newey at the time of Mike Coughlan getting the job at Williams, saying he thought it an "interesting"/odd choice, and seemed to imply he didn't think he was the right type for such a role.


That could even make sense. For the 2003 to 2006 McLarens Newey has worked together with Coughlan and Prodromou, and when he moved to Red Bull, he got Prodromou to follow him one year later, but not Coughlan. Might be a coincidence, but might also be based on not making an "interesting" choice.


I'm as uncomfortable about Symonds appointment (and Coughlan previously) as I am about athletes guilty of doping being allowed to compete again.

It sets a terrible precident, cycling is still reeling from its past mistakes of not getting to grips with the doping issue. The problem F1 has is that if these two [mod] seemingly get away with it, it encourages more people to push the boundaries.

Arguably Symonds involvment in crashgate is one of the most dangerous acts of cheating committed in any sport.


Shameful. The guy conspired to fix a race. Great way for Claire Williams to begin her tenure as chief! Why doesn't Williams hire Nigel Stepney, Flavio and Lance Armstrong, too? As others have said, it seems like a desparate act by a team with a bleak future.


Problem is that williams needs fresh minds with new ideas. Both

Coughlan and symonds are has beens who got caught cheating. But I hope it works out as williams have been my favorite team for 20 years.


Pat is awesome... I'm sure it was Alonso and Flav that were pushing for the [mod]

Always enjoyed Pat's interviews.

If McLaren were not busy committing suicide with Whitmarsh and Button, they would have done well to bring Pat on board... he could have at leased pushed them to bring in one top 10 driver...


A good technical director has to be a good engineer but also a good leader.

While Coughlan is a good engineer (no question!) looking at the trial-and-error approach pursued in the development of this years car you cant help but think that it was Gillan who provided leadership and direction on the technical side.

With Symonds I'm less convinced in his engineering talent as he spent many years as race engineer, away from the now dominant aerodynamics and the ups and downs of the enstone squad seem more related to the talent of Gascoyne, Bell, and Allison. However, he should (by now, anyway) be able to provide the direction Williams so desperately needs.

As for engineering talent don't forget that they have Jason Somerville as head of aerodynamics since 2011, who, while keeping a lower profile has an excellent record: He designed aerodynamically strong Toyotas (weak engine) and founded the new born success of Lotus (enstone). Somervile and Symonds complement each other and might just be able to do something for Williams. So I'll overall call this a good move.


Is my email wrong or something could have sworn I contributed to this thread last night. Waist ignored for a reason?


Yes. It was libellous and inflammatory


Wow, sorry you feel that way James. I would never say anything on here that could bring the site into disrepute. But considering some have eluded to the same thing without actually coming out and saying so I'm surprised you/the team feel that way.

It almost makes me feel as though I mentioned that relative no one should or dares to mention.... Sorry


I can assure you I have not "eluded" to what you were suggesting in your post


No James you miss understand I'm not suggesting you or your team have suggested anything you're too close to the sport and too much of a pro.

I was talking about deancassidy's post further up. Anyway apologise I'll pick my words with more sneakeness next time.

Still think he's guilty though....... ;!


About sums up F1 nowadays.

One cheat replaces another, I have also heard, not overheard, the new boy calling 2 well respected, now retired drivers 2 of the biggest w****** to ever sit in an F1 car.

Not really very sure why I am still interested, I suppose I keep hoping that someone will finally come along to tidy it all up, vain desire I suspect.

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