The deal that takes technical boss Paddy Lowe to Williams and which brings Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s team mate is now underway and should be announced soon, after some delays over the New Year period, partly over the length of ‘gardening leave’ period.
A further consequence is the return to the cockpit of Felipe Massa, having announced his retirement in 2016. The Brazilian was in a very strong negotiating position with Mercedes wanting Bottas and Williams needing an experienced driver alongside rookie Lance Stroll for 2017. Massa is expected to race for one more season to give Williams a chance to recruit a long term replacement.
Lowe’s departure from Mercedes, formally announced on Tuesday, has been foreshadowed for many months. His contract was due to expire at the end of 2016 and negotiations were reported to be difficult. In the meantime Williams, with the impetus of the Stroll family, was keen to shake up the technical side of the team and along with the departure of Pat Symonds, there have been a number of other departmental heads who have left the team.
Ironically when Lowe left McLaren in 2013 it was to join Toto Wolff at Williams, where he was a minority shareholder. But then Wolff was appointed Mercedes F1 team boss and head of Mercedes motorsport and he diverted Lowe onto Brackley, rather than Williams factory in Grove. He worked alongside Ross Brawn before the latter stepped away from the team, having put in place much of the groundwork for the dominant 2014 hybrid turbo car.
Lowe carried that work on and the team won 51 Grands Prix out of 59 over three years, missing out on pole position just three times in that period.
So Lowe is arriving at his originally intended destination three and a half years – and six drivers’ and constructors’ world championships – later than expected!
The expectation in F1 circles is that former Ferrari technical director James Allison will come in to the Mercedes team, once his period of gardening leave completed in the summer, but there is no mention of that today.
Mercedes’ statement said: “In the short term, our stable technical organisation will continue to operate under the proven and established leadership of our senior directors Aldo Costa (Engineering Director), Mark Ellis (Performance Director), Rob Thomas (Chief Operating Officer) and Geoff Willis (Technology Director).”
“Paddy has played an important part in our success during the past three and a half years and we thank him for his contribution to this significant chapter in Mercedes’ motorsport history, ” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“Success in Formula One is not about single individuals but about the strength in depth and technical capability of an organisation.
“We have the talent in place to continue our success of recent years and we plan to build upon it in 2017 and beyond.”
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