Penitent Coughlan engineers his return

Mike Coughlan has publicly apologised for the first time over the role he played in the infamous "spygate" saga. After four years away from Formula One, Coughlan yesterday began his new role as chief engineer at Williams.

The appointment has been controversial as there are many within the sport, particularly at Ferrari, who have never forgiven him for the events of 2007.

Working at McLaren at the time as their chief designer, Coughlan was found to be in possession of a dossier of technical secrets belonging to Ferrari.

It resulted in McLaren being fined a sporting record of nearly £50m by the FIA, who also suspended Coughlan from motor sport for two years. Having been given a second chance in Formula One by Williams, Coughlan is eager to set the record straight, starting with saying sorry for his actions.

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who was affected by my conduct," Coughlan said yesterday, "and in particular the people at McLaren and Ferrari and the fans of those teams."

Coughlan has revealed that what happened was a "life-changing experience", which has made him a better person. "It made me reflect upon myself and my actions," he said. "Leaving a team and a sport I love, and then seeing the consequences of my actions on the team and its fans, was devastating."

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