F1 observers did not have to wait long to discover why Pat Symonds has quit his consultancy role with Marussia, as Williams quickly confirmed that he would be replacing Mike Coughlan at the head of its engineering team.
Announcing that Coughlan would be stepping down from his position as technical director with immediate effect, the Grove squad confirmed Symonds – now free of the ban preventing him from holding a permanent position in the top flight – would be taking up the mantle of chief technical officer from 19 August. Coughlan joined Williams in May 2011, effectively replacing Sam Michael, who moved on to McLaren at the end of that year. The team has thanked him for the significant contribution he has made since his appointment – including his input into the FW34 that Pastor Maldonado took to victory in Barcelona last season - and wished him well in his, as yet unknown, future endeavours.
Symonds, meanwhile, arrives fresh from helping turn around the fortunes of the Marussia team where, under the terms of his 'ban' following the 'crashgate' saga of 2008-09, he held the title of technical consultant.
“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 F1,” Symonds noted, “Sir Frank, [CEO] 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.”
The Englishman's 30-year F1 career, while widely remembered for the events of Singapore 2008, has also seen success with some of the sport's most accomplished teams and drivers. Having started his career at Toleman, it was in the same team's Benetton - and subsequent Renault - guise that he began to achieve extraordinary success, as partnerships with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso produced 32 race wins, four world drivers' championships and three constructors' crowns. Since 2009, he has run his own high technology and motorsports consultancy, in addition to providing his expertise to the Marussia team.
“I'm delighted that Pat is joining the team,” Williams founder and team principal Sir Frank Williams commented, “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.”
Despite Maldonado's Spanish GP victory, Williams has been unable to capitalise on the upturn in form, and is currently suffering one of its worst-ever seasons as the Venezuelan and rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas continue to miss the top ten. The Grove team, which switches to Mercedes power next season, remains pointless, along with Marussia and Caterham, as the 2013 season moves into its second half. Despite that, the F1 stalwart continues to prove attractive to some of the biggest 'behind the scenes' names.
“Williams' sporting and engineering heritage dictates that we secure the finest talent available,” O'Driscoll concluded, “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.”