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Insight: Paddy Lowe departure from Mercedes F1 team paves way for Bottas/Massa announcement
Paddy Lowe
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jan 2017   |  6:02 pm GMT  |  131 comments

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.

Paddy Lowe

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.

Toto Wolff

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.”

What do you make of this development How will it affect Williams’ competitiveness?Leave your comment in the section below

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I don’t know why Mercedes is interested in James Allison. He didn’t cut it at Renault/Lotus and he didn’t cut it at Ferrari (while profiting from McLaren Hondas and red Bull Renaults lack of form). Are they sick of winning?


Not a Merc fan.
But Toto earns my high respect the way he treats his team and other teams.
He ain’t perfect but thats how you treat a team member leaving.
With praise!


I got a feeling that perhaps Williams going to move to honda engine in 2018 depending their 2017 performance james could you give us your thoughts on this and james key?


Why would they?
For the Bottas move they are practically four engines for the price of two ? That is assume will be as long as they have Bottas. Why go for an unreliable engine when you can have the best for half the price ?
It’s a win win for Williams.


is Williams where Lowe wanted to go all along?




Drugs are bad mmmkay…


With all due respect to James Allison, why is he so highly rated?


Does Lowe know something we don’t about how competitive williams will be in 2017? or is he just winding his career down and going back to where he started? Also why are williams not considering Di resta instead of brining back massa? they are arguably similarly paced with di rest being younger he could be a long term solutions he is just as fast as any1 else they could bring in? he’s their reserve driver so it would seem logical to me


Massa is possibly considered by Williams to be a better bet as a development driver, given his long standing in the team.


The description of ‘difficult negotiations’ around Lowe’s departure may not be only, or even mainly, directly with him. Rosberg has caused Mercedes a whole bunch of headaches and almost all of them are interconnected.

They want a replacement driver from another team who use their engines. That team wants a lot to put their own plans in the bin. That driver has a contract which needs to be abrogated. His management includes the Mercedes CEO raising possible conflicts of interest.

The customer team driver’s replacement needs the sponsors to agree and a contract to be agreed. I don’t know about you but if someone wanted to drag me out of retirement I might be rather fussy about the terms, not just the money but behind the scenes requirements.

At the same time the technical head of Mercedes wants to be team principal at a team he was heading for when Mercedes grabbed him. That makes him an element in the negotiations for the driver. On top of that Mercedes worry about customer teams getting too close to them and being a real competitor. Their technical boss moving to a customer team increases that anxiety. But on the other hand the top three in Mercedes may not have been working as smoothly together as the main board would like?

Mercedes have their eyes on a Lowe replacement but he has contractual restrictions and is being tempted by a number of possible options ( I’d be amazed if such a talent wasn’t being chased). The current Mercedes technical team will have their own views on a Lowe replacement or rather the way that replacement fits in and works with them. They are a talented bunch and talented people are often rather fussy about such things.

All this against the background of the new regulations which throw up all sorts of unpleasant prospects on the track, and a three times champion driver who was so pissed off with them that he threatened to quit mid season and still will be wary of them. What will a Lowe replacement mean to him?

And all to a very tight deadline in practical, regulatory and professional terms.

So, overall, it is not an exaggeration when Lauda says it is ‘complicated’.

I’d say it is.


Plus if you are going to lose someone good to a rival, its preferable that he goes to a team that won’t be able to cause many problems. Williams are at least two seasons away from any real chance of success.


As some others have said, F1 is not a place for sentiment, and I think Williams will come to regret bringing Massa back – he mentally checked out one he was shown the door to retirement, and is more and more prone to letting his emotions overshadow his professionalism. If Williams want to move up the grid and be considered a top team again, they have to think and act like a top team.


why would mercedes want james allison ? i don’t think allison is top shelf. his last championship winning car ?


Paddy clearly wants to run a team.
He’s not gonna be running Mercedes while toto is there so time to move on.
Team success isn’t the same as personal success.

Conspiratorialy speaking, could it be that paddy was forced by toto to tell Lewis to speed up at the last race?
Maybe this was something paddy wasn’t happy to do and became the deciding factor in moving on.

The Grape Unwashed


Maybe this was something paddy wasn’t happy to do and became the deciding factor in moving on.

Here’s Lowe himself –


I think Wolff is likely to have told him to instruct Hamilton to speed up, it sounds like Lowe was less than convinced it was necessary!


Anyone but Massa ,the guy is finished and he was never that good anyway.


Presumably this is the end of Williams’ long-term preference for straight-line speed over cornering downhole?


For those asking the reasonable question; “why Massa, he’s lost his pace, washed-up, etc.”, I would,suggest that the key sentence in James’ piece is; “Williams, with the impetus of the Stroll family, …”. Laurence Stroll does not want his son going up against anyone who might make him look bad. So, e.g., getting narrowly beat by Bottas would be OK, in fact viewed favorably, whereas getting beat by a Wehrlein would be a disaster. Getting beat by Massa would not be good, but may be explained with rapidly-waving hands, and is far less likely.


Williams can only benefit vastly from Lowe’s wealth of experience, but I think Mercedes have the right man lined up to replace him.


Massa out of retirement is the most bizarre part of the whole story. He checked out years ago and the unstable emotional displays he put on towards the end were the best evidence that bringing him back is a huge mistake.
Let him retire fat and happy in a well grassed paddock. Whether Stroll is the real deal or not, he will likely beat FM from day one. Williams would be better to go with two young “gambles” than to have one gamble and one gauranteed plodder. A left field pick that would have been massively interesting for F1 would have been to put the rally world champion into the car, as VW were pulling out anyway. That guy is young, super talented and would be a good match for LS.


Luke, Felipe is the only driver available who fits their needs. Martini need a driver over the age of 25 to promote their alcaholic drinks, and the Stroll contract demands a senior driver to partner Lance.


Reading elsewhere one of the challenges for team Willy is thattheir main sponsor is a “mature” alcohol brand. They need a more mature driver that can support their marketing. Two young hot shoes doesn’t cut it in the Martini lounge


Williams are sponsored by Martini. Martini have an image associated with older people, not teenagers. For that reason they need one older driver at Williams. Massa fits the bill.


Oh and theres currently no one else available!


This Bottas deal is getting more complicated all the time!


Racing wise I see no reason for Williams to resign massa. He totally looked like he’s done with f1 had not much speed left. They could have gone for so many other hungry drivers. Also the thing about having someone to please sponsors doesn’t make any sense either. I wonder really how much martini will use massa face to pursue their drinking campaign


Hamilton to follow after 2018


I don’t think he will do it to follow paddy, that’s not what I meant. I think perhaps Lewis well get tired of Toto and Niki. He HAS question the legitimacy of his lack of reliability, which means that he doesn’t trust them. With Bottas coming in and his manager being Toto, perhaps Lewis will want to switch teams and of there’s a resurgence at Williams he might want to go there. I don’t see him at Ferrari, they don’t fit with his lifestyle

The Grape Unwashed

I’d love to see Hamilton at Williams, but unless they have a ridiculous improvement in form I think McLaren is more likely. I agree that he must be getting sick of Mercedes’ management.


What makes people think that Lewis Hamilton is desperate to have Paddy Lowe at his side? When Lowe left McLaren he was heading to Williams. Tonto was very much involved with Williams at that time, then Tonto got the job at Mercedes and took Lowe with him. There was no tie up with Lewis Hamilton at all.


hamilton doesn’t need to surround himself with hand picked professionals to win and Mercedes will not let him go without a fight.


This may turn out to be the best thing to happen to Williams …. well this century really. Will Sir Frank let go of the Team Principal tag ? At a pinch I can see Paddy in a similar double act with Claire Williams to the one he was in with Toto .. but he’d need to be very bored with Mercedes success to move without making a step up. And I don’t believe he’s been levered out by politics. What’s in it for him ?

Potentially a disaster for Mercedes: no-one is irreplaceable (or as General DeGaulle said ‘The graveyards are full of irreplaceable men’) but whilst those senior directors include some competent names none of them is a team principal in waiting. And how many quality people will follow Lowe down the A43 ?


Oh no! Another season with Felipe Masssa? He’s a granny, better call Pedro de la Rosa. Or Jenson Button.


Alejandro, I guess you are joking about Felipe being the “granny” of that group?
Massa =35
Button =36
De La Rosa =45!


Negotiations were difficult? What exactly does that mean? Surely, sitting at the head of the table with three successive championships years featuring as notches on your belt would be difficult to abandon. Was the difficulty with remuneration? was it status? Would be helpful if these questions could be expanded on as it would help to understand the move a bit more clearly.


Why was Paddy Lowe’s discussion with Mercedes fraught with difficulties?


The deal to let bottas go almost makes sense now.
Hopefully Lowe is the Patrick Head replacement they have been looking for as he will be arriving with fresh ideas from the top table.Probably worth more long term than locking Bottas down.
Dunno which driver will be available post Massa but he could suddenly have a good year and carry on in 2018 as well if they tell him he is team no1 and treat him like it. Remember he crushed Kimi and was making alonso work before usual ferrari stupidity squashed it all.


Kimi knew he was being dumped by Ferrari due to Alonso and Santander. Massa also was having the best season of his life.
Massa never did anything before or since to make the list of the great drivers. No qualifying magic, no lap records, no regular out driving the car to glory. Just nice guy… Oh and donut king in the rain!
Williams are taking him back because they need the money and because the have enough risk in the already signed teenager to last a lifetime.


Sky are reporting that Paddy will be the team boss st Williams, rather than technical director, and that he wanted equity in the team to go there. Any idea if this is correct? Did Paddy leave of his own volition, or was he ousted to make way for Allison? Does this mean Merc rate James higher than Lowe? Or would they not want to work with each other?


To be established but I’d have though Paddy was not was interested in the political side of the sport

Brawn is the case study, with a string commercial CEO alongside

We will see


Thanks James, I guess all these questions will be answered when the rumour mill starts up again!

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