Sam Michael becomes Sporting Director of… McLaren

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has announced that Sam Michael will join the team as Sporting Director from the 2012 season onwards. Michael has 18 continuous years in the industry, Sam is a hugely experienced Formula 1 professional. After starting his Grand Prix career with Team Lotus in 1993, he joined Jordan Grand Prix in 1995, where he established the team’s R&D group before progressing into a senior race engineering role. In 2001 he joined WilliamsF1 as Chief Operations Engineer, becoming the team’s Technical Director in 2004 and a company director in 2008.

As Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Sporting Director, Sam will join the senior management team in addition to taking specific responsibility for the development and management of the team’s trackside operations. His vast experience and profound understanding of race operations will enhance the team’s on-track capability, adding significantly to its already impressive technical management strength-in-depth.

23 thoughts on “Sam Michael becomes Sporting Director of… McLaren

  1. I had heard yesterday that he might be heading to McLaren, but didn’t know what position. Very interesting indeed.

    Joe,
    Has there been any further news regarding the reshuffle / hiring at Williams or is anything else expected to happen?

  2. Great news for Sam, I had worried that he might be moving down to the back end of the grid. One has to wonder which came first, the offer or the resignation, I tend to think that Sam knew where he was going when he resigned, though at the time it looked very much like he was falling on his sword. sad to see the great Williams in this state.

    1. rpaco,

      Don’t try to read too much into this. One does not trade technical director for sporting director unless there is a sizeable boot applied from behind.

    1. Cynic,

      Hold your horses there… No-one doubts that Sam is a hugely talented individual. Some think he was in the wrong job. He probably does not but the skill of team management is to have the right people in the right places. We will have to see whether the new team at Williams is better or worse, although these days at Grove it is a lot easier to be better than in it is now, than it is to be worse…

  3. I think what John might be referring to is McLaren’s proclivity for slightly oily PR-speak (at least as perceived by we outside the paddock), as opposed to the Williams MO of upper lips so stiff you could spring an FW33 with them.

  4. I think Williams problems are stagnant management that haven’t moved with time or haven’t aged well or both.
    Sam Michael was the least of Williams’ problems. His talent is undoubted by one and all and McLaren wrapping him up just drives that fact home. There’s been a lot of reshuffle of top names within RB, McLaren and Ferrari but this is probably the first one in recent times where one from the mid-field is going upwards. But then, what did Neil Martin do since he arrived at Ferrari from RB? What did Pat Fry do to take Ferrari to the top? In both cases, not much. It takes a lot of time to see the effects and such reshuffles do not impact performance immediately, if at all. If you’re not Adrian Newey, it doesn’t matter much! :p
    Its a team sport. Team structure, management and efficiency are far more important than a few big names. Ross Brawn hasn’t been able to take Mercedes anywhere near the top in 2 years. Does that mean he’s not as good anymore? No. It means the team is not as efficient and well-structured. Force India have been giving much bigger Sauber and Williams a run for their money, how is that? Do they have better people? Not necessarily. They’re just able to do things much more efficiently. A lot of technical personnel went from Force India to Lotus (or Caterham or whatever), what changed? Not much.
    So, its a bit foolish to pin the performance (or lack thereof) of a team to a couple of individuals.

  5. Joe,
    With reference to the McLaren is the epitome of no nonsense comment. Do you want to open a book on when Sam Michael gets his hair cut high and tight? As he walks through the door at Woking or the weekend before???? I strongly suspect that is a requirement in his employment contract based on everyone else at the company! Not something I can see Ron D leaving to chance as Sam is to sit on the pit wall!

  6. This move surprises me… I had always ascribed part of the Williams’ demise on Sam’s lack of ability to perform well and lead… either McLaren know something that is not evident to TV viewers (which is highly likely!) or else they are going to find out they are short-changed too. My reading of Sam is that he is capable and likeable and amiable but not focussed or strong enough in the areas that matter: and he is certainly not known to be ruthless…
    I will watch with interest, whilst wishing both parties the best of luck…

  7. I’m pretty shocked McLaren have picked him up. Williams’ decline happened to co-inside with Michael’s appointment. His mis-management of JPM was a tipping point for me “No, Juan you are the wanker”…..that was him wasn’t it?
    Either way, here’s hoping the boys at Macca have employed him to re-design their cafeteria and nothing on the cars……

  8. McLaren hired him which means that the guy is talented. I don’t like particularly Rubens but his vast experience and understanding is unquestionable. He said that Sam Michael was great, the only problem was that he had too much job for a single individual ! In that same interview, he wasn’t very kind towards Adam Parr and that’s the least I can say.

    So if Michael is talented and had too much job, why not hire some more talents next to him instead of firing him ? Williams is a really poor team now and I don’t think that Sauber or ToroRosso have much more resources than them yet they’re beating them. If there were no new teams in F1, Williams would finish dead last in the Constructors…

    Mr. Parr thank you very much for trying to lure Qataris into investing in your worthless team, but Qataris are the least stupid of all Arabs and you prorbably bet on the wrong horse.

  9. I’m not sure about Michael and as a Williams fan it’s easy to put a lot of the blame for the teams bad results over the last years on him. I really don’t understand why he still is so highly regarded after what he has achieved with Williams. There has, however, to be something with him that has made Frank and Patrick keep him for so long – and Ron to give him the nod (nobody gets hired for a top job in McL without Rons blessing).

    I guess Michael is highly intelligent, has a very good technical brain, but apparently takes on way too much. That tells me that he probably isn’t very good at delegating or organizing (or to put it more bluntly: a control freak) – and neither are his bosses at Williams. He might therefore be a better fit in a much more structured environment at McLaren where his responsibilities (including what is not) will be very clear.

    As for Williams, sadly I don’t think their restructuring is anywhere near finalized. I don’t think Parr has managed Micheal – or the technical structure, which in an F1 team probably is the most important part of the top job, and after six or seven years as head honcho at Williams, with the results getting continually worse, he clearly isn’t up to the job. In my view Williams should hire the anti-Frank, i.e. Flavio Briatore to run the team. 😉

  10. I have never prescribed to the view that Williams decline was the sole fault of Sam Michaels. An imploding budget due to lack of manufacturer support and sponsors is much harder situation to manage manage than a smaller team working up to its limits. Good luck to him.

    Has to sold his shareholding to avoid any perceived conflict of interest?

  11. Williams were hit hard twice in the late 90’s with the loss of Newey, and the loss of Renault. They struggled with the Mecachrome engines, believing that the old Renault plant would suffice, but without the aerodymaic benefits of Newey and a year old engine, albeit slightly tuned, it never made them a sensation.

    Then they got together with BMW, and at last seemed to be on the right track. Two decent drivers, a good engine, But conflict meant BMW didn’t stay Since then they’ve struggled with Cosworth and Toyota, and the struggles have lead to a reduced budget.

    Sam stayed with the team through the slip, but he can’t be singled out as the reason Williams has struggled. I agree they need a reorganisation and fresh ideas, and with Renault back next season, it’s time for a new team to lead the constructor forward.

    Sam meanwhile, is taking his experience away from the technical side and into the team management side, being involved in operations and working alongside an experienced team to drive McLaren forward. He won’t be on his own any more, and I wish him luck.

  12. McLaren have looked terribly amateurish this season, you can feel a lack of something or other going on over there. If Sam can help then why not. Obviously it shows a lack of understanding to blame him for Williams woes.

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