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Williams insider admits Michael a 'scapegoat' as Head/Parr clash

There is trouble brewing behind-the-scenes at Williams, it would appear, with Adam Parr and Patrick Head disagreeing over the latter's retirement plans - and Sam Michael and Jon Tomlinson being labelled 'scapegoats'
The day after the most controversial appointment of the F1 2011 campaign with the announcement that shamed 'Spygate' conspirator Mike Coughlan is to join Williams next month, all manner of chaos seems to have broken out inside the former multiple world championship-winning operation, with a public rift between Adam Parr and Patrick Head and a team insider admitting that Sam Michael and Jon Tomlinson were merely 'scapegoats'.

Yesterday (Tuesday) it was confirmed that in the wake of Williams' worst start to an F1 season in its history and a nosedive in the value of the team's shares on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, technical director Michael and chief aerodynamicist Tomlinson will stand down at the end of 2011, with Coughlan coming on-board as chief engineer [see separate story – click here]. However, what had been suspected in some quarters has now been corroborated.

“There are a few things wrong at Williams at the moment,” a team insider told British newspaper The Guardian, “and Sam and Jon are little more than scapegoats. Sam is a good man who was overworked, though he probably should have appointed better people around him.”

Having played a leading role in the infamous 'Spygate' scandal of 2007 after being found in possession of confidential documents belonging to Ferrari, the signing of former McLaren chief designer Coughlan has raised more than a few eyebrows within the sport – but Williams chairman Parr is adamant that the 52-year-old deserves a second chance.

“If someone is given a two-year penalty, but then you turn around and say it means for life then that is just wrong,” he mused. “People make mistakes – very serious mistakes in his case – but he has acknowledged it and he has served a very severe penalty. He has been severely punished and served his time, and now it is time for him to move forward.”

It seems, however, that Coughlan is not Williams' sole problem. At the same time as he admitted to having tendered his own resignation – an offer that was refused – Parr revealed that team co-founder and director of engineering Head 'has made it clear that he will be retiring at some point this year' having 'already signalled that it's time for him to move on to his next set of interests in life' [see separate story – click here].

It is an assertion that has clearly surprised and angered Head – whose reaction hints at the kind of infighting and disarray reigning behind-the-scenes.

“What you are telling me is news to me,” retorted the 64-year-old, who earned more than £30 million by selling over half of his shares in the Grove-based outfit earlier this year, when he had also underlined that 'I want to play my part in bringing Williams back to the front of the grid'. “I wasn't aware that Adam had said that. He wasn't in a position to make that statement. My plans are not in the public domain, and they will only be when I make my own statement later in the year.”

Related Pictures

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Race, Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director
Friday Practice 1, Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director
Friday, Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director
Adam Parr, Chief Executive Officer, Williams F1 Team
Friday Practice 1, Rubens Barrichello (BRA), Williams, FW32 and Patrick Head(GBR) Williams
Patrick Head, Director of Engineering, Williams F1
Patrick Head, Director of Engineering, Williams F1
Patrick Head, Director of Engineering, Williams F1
16.04.2011- Qualifying, Rubens Barrichello (BRA), Williams FW33
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15.04.2011- Friday Practice 1, Rubens Barrichello (BRA), Williams FW33 ,LEGAL NOTICE: THIS PICTURE IS NOT FOR CHINA
15.04.2011- Friday Practice 1, Pastor Maldonado (VEN), Williams FW33
Friday Practice 1, Patrick Head(GBR) Williams
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California Kid - Unregistered

May 04, 2011 8:42 PM

I wonder if it would've been a slightly different story for Williams and BMW if BMW succeeded in the takeover. Part of me thinks they might still be in the sport if it was BMW Williams F1. That technical partnership could've carried over into LeMans, and possibly DTM. They really need manufacturer backing, dictator oil money can only go so far.

Oli - Unregistered

May 04, 2011 10:03 PM

@DTGM "Unfortunately these sports types never really understand business." Sir Frank Williams is one of the most astute businessmen around. He has always been businessman first, F1 fanatic second, that's how he has survived for all these years. Williams F1 only exists because a young Frank saw the oppportunity to make money selling racing car parts, and Frank Williams Racing Cars Ltd was born. If Frank has a flaw, it is his loyalty to the personnel in a technical department that simply hasn't given him a good car for too long. Patrick Head has been Frank's partner from the start, but the technical team is Patrick's department, and clearly Patrick hasn't been able to move with the times. Equally, Sam Michael gets a good press but he has never built a fast F1 car. These changes were needed a few years ago, but better late than never. I hope they have come soon enough for Williams to return to it's former glories. Oli

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