Williams defend new role for Coughlan

Williams yesterday defended their decision to hand Mike Coughlan a route back into Formula One after appointing him chief engineer as part of a wider shake-up following the worst start to a season in the team's history.

In 2007, Coughlan, then serving as McLaren's chief designer, was at the heart of the "spygate" saga after being caught in possession of secret Ferrari technical information.

Coughlan was initially suspended and then released by McLaren, who were punished by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council to the tune of £49.2m.

The 52-year-old was handed a two-year suspension from Formula One, and avoided legal proceedings in Italy after only agreeing in February 2009 to pay €180,000 (£158,000).

The Williams chairman, Adam Parr, said: "If someone is given a two-year penalty, but then you turn around and say it means for life, that is just wrong. People make mistakes, very serious mistakes in his case, but he has acknowledged it and he has served a very severe penalty. Now it is time for him to move forward."

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