McLaren has confirmed a spate of rumours that sprung up on Twitter overnight by announcing that
ousted soon-to-be-departing Williams Technical Director Sam Michael will join the team as its Sporting Director in 2012.
Amid the Williams team’s seven-year winless streak and this season representing the team’s worst performance in his lengthy history as a Formula 1 constructor, Michael quit his post in May, later announcing that his final appearance with the team would be at the upcoming Grand Prix in Korea (later revised to the next round in Singapore).
The Woking squad confirmed via a press release that the 40-year-old Australian “will join the senior management team in addition to taking specific responsibility for the development and management of the team’s trackside operations.”
Michael has vast experience in Formula 1, totalling 18 seasons on the frontline. He started his F1 career with the Lotus team in 1993 before joining Jordan in 1995. He moved up through the team’s ranks to the role of senior race engineer in 2000.
In 2001, he moved to Williams as the team’s Chief Operations Engineer, and took over the Technical Director role in 2004 when Patrick Head decided to step back. It must equally be noted that the team’s last race win came in 2004.
In subsequent years, the Williams team’s performance has suffered a steady and inexorable decline, losing its engine partnership with BMW and a host of blue-chip sponsors along the way. The current season is the team’s worst by far, with the lumbering Cosworth-powered FW33 challenger scraping just five championship points to-date.
Since falling on his sword, Williams undertook a broader reshuffle in its technical line-up, hiring former McLaren designer Mike Coughlan, as well as design and engineering whiz men Mark Gillan and Jason Somerville.
The team has also announced that it would reunite with engine supplier Renault from next season, as well as recently posting a profit in its first year of being a publically-listed company on Frankfurt’s Stock Exchange.
Describing himself as being “extremely delighted [to join] one of the all-time greats of Formula 1”, Michael added: “Becoming a member of that excellent working unit was one of the prime attractions of this new position.
“Equally, for some time I’ve closely observed and greatly admired both Lewis and Jenson as grade-one drivers, and therefore regard it as an enormous privilege to be able to work with both of them.”
“I’m very pleased to welcome Sam as an important senior addition to our race team,” McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh added: “He’ll bring a very valuable blend of experience and expertise to our pit wall, and will also enrich the technical management we provide for our drivers.”
One suspects a severe haircut will be the first requirement before Michael even walks through the doors at Woking – that bushy ’60s style certainly doesn’t fit with McLaren’s ‘short back and sides’ image!