McLaren's Sam Michael set to leave F1 team at end of 2014

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Sam Michael
Sam Michael became McLaren's sporting director at the start of 2012

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael is to leave at the end of the season.

A McLaren spokesman said the 43-year-old resigned in March after saying he wanted to return to his native Australia with his family.

The spokesman "categorically denied" reports that technical director Tim Goss and chief operating officer Jonathan Neale were to be fired in the near future.

He said: "They are not leaving and there are no plans for them to leave."

The spokesman said the team "regretted" Michael's decision to leave McLaren and Formula 1.

"It's been 21 awesome years in F1," said Michael. "Loved every minute of the racing and the people, but it's time to go home - and on with the next challenge."

Michael informed chairman Ron Dennis of his decision to return home with his family seven months ago, but it was agreed at the time that he would continue in his role with the team for the rest of the season.

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael
Michael's position at McLaren came under pressure in 2012 following a series of pitstop mistakes

He has worked for McLaren since 2012, joining them after resigning from his position as technical director at Williams in early 2011.

The roles of Goss and Neale have been under scrutiny for some time as a result of McLaren's poor performance in the last two seasons.

But the spokesman said reports that they were to leave the team were "completely untrue".

McLaren are undergoing an internal reshuffle under Dennis this season in an attempt to return them to competitiveness.

Former Red Bull head of aerodynamics Peter Prodromou has started work as chief engineer and is expected to have a significant input into next year's car.

Inevitably, the arrival of such a high-profile figure will lead to a shifting of responsibilities within the team.

McLaren are continuing their efforts to sign Fernando Alonso as their lead driver.

Talks are ongoing with the two-time champion, who is to leave Ferrari at the end of the season, a move that has not yet been officially announced by the Italian team.

Sam Michael facts
Born: 29 April, 1971, western Australia
Studied mechanical engineering at the University of New South Wales with a thesis on data acquisition systems for racing cars
Michael joined Jordan in 1994 after his previous employers Team Lotus went bankrupt
Left Jordan in 2001 to join Williams as a senior operations engineer and then progressed to the role of technical director
Michael resigned from Williams in May 2011 and started working for McLaren in 2012

The 33-year-old is trying to choose between joining McLaren at the start of their new engine partnership with Honda next season or taking a sabbatical from F1 in the hope of a Mercedes drive in 2016.

Mercedes, the new world champions, already have Nico Rosberg under contract until at least the end of 2016.

Lewis Hamilton's contract runs out at the end of next season, but the team have said their priority is to agree a new deal with the Englishman.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said the team had agreed not to start negotiations with Hamilton until the end of the season, to allow him to focus on his title battle with Rosberg.

Alonso would be an option for Mercedes should they fail to agree a deal with Hamilton.