McLaren sporting director Sam Michael will leave the team at the end of the current Formula 1 season and return to his homeland of Australia, it has been announced.
The Woking-based squad has confirmed the Western Australian tendered his resignation back in March – he has been noticeably absent from the paddock for much of the season, prompting rumours that his time with the team was up.
Having started out as part-time engineer in Australian Formula Holden (F3000 equivalent) championship while he completed his mechanical engineering degree at the University of New South Wales.
He was recommended to fellow Australian Peter Collins – then in charge of the ailing Team Lotus outfit – and so he moved into Formula 1 in 1993 to work in the team’s data acquisition and simulation divisions. After the team’s closure at the end of 1994, he joined the Jordan team and subsequently established its R&D department in 1996, installing a seven-post test rig.
He joined its engineering team in 1998 and helped engineer Ralf Schumacher and then Heinz-Harald Frentzen, playing a key role in the latter’s two race wins in 1999.
He moved to the Williams team in 2001 as a Senior Operations Engineer, and later became its Technical Director in 2004 following the retirement of team co-founder Patrick Head. He remained in the role for several years as the team’s competitiveness waned, and was ultimately given no option but to resign after the team’s appalling start to its 2011 season.
A year later, he was a surprise appointment by McLaren – taking on the role of Sporting Director – but the team has also struggled over the last two seasons and it would be fair to say that Michael’s stock has waned considerably.
While he has declined to indicate what the next chapter of his career will be, his return to Australia will make him an attractive prospect to local motorsport teams and it would not be a surprise to see him pop up in a senior role in the V8 Supercars Championship next year.
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