Pay Symonds will leave his position as Technical Consultant to the Marussia F1 Team and has been appointed as Williams’ Chief Technical Officer, replacing Mike Coughlan.
“Pat brings unrivalled technical and managerial skills in addition to a proven ability to deliver on track results,” Mike O’Driscoll, Williams’ CEO is quoted as saying in the team’s media announcement.
“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.”
Symonds has been one of Formula 1’s leading technical heads for the past thirty years, starting out with what was then the Toleman team in the early 1980s, remaining with it through its subsequent Benetton and Renault entities.
His on-track success principally came through partnerships with two drivers: Michael Schumacher (1991-5) and Fernando Alonso (2003-6, 2008-9), which netted 32 Grand Prix wins, capped off with four Drivers’ Championship and three Constructors’ Championship titles.
Unfortunately Symonds is also known for his involvement in the Singapore Grand Prix scandal of 2008, where he conspired to have Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crash out of the race, triggering the Safety Car that would ultimately allow teammate Alonso to claim victory. He was banned from the sport for five years, although it was later overturned on appeal, allowing him to return first in a consultant capacity with Marussia in 2011, before taking a payroll position at the start of the year.
In simultaneously announcing Coughlan’s departure, the Williams team was surprisingly crisp, offering a two-sentence press release confirming the Englishman’s departure.
Coughlan – who served his own hiatus from Formula 1 for his role in the 2007 Spygate scandal when he was McLaren’s chief designer – has disappointed in his return to F1 with Williams.
He joined the team in mid-2011, replacing the departing technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson.
While the 2012 season saw the Grove team return to a more competitive footing, its win at the Spanish Grand Prix ultimately proved to be a flash in the pan, and this year the team is enduring the worst campaign in its history, remaining scoreless to-date. The FW35 is clearly a very poor car, and it would seem that Coughlan has ultimately become the ‘fall guy’ in the latest raft of leadership changes at Williams.