It has been clear for quite a while that Paddy Lowe, the Executive Director (Technical) of the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, has been finding it rather difficult to agree terms for a new deal with the über-successful Brackley squad. The word is that his demands are rather more than the team is willing to give – financially and otherwise. The bad news for Paddy is that the team has been in a pretty comfortable position since Ferrari made the extraordinary move of falling out with its technical director James Allison, which put him on the market in July 2017.
Lowe and his team have already dealt with the design of the new Mercedes for 2017 and so Paddy could be replaced without too much drama, with James then stepping in a few months later, in time to have an influence on the 2018 car.
Lowe wants to move ever upward in his career and if Mercedes doesn’t want to play ball and Ferrari is not really interesting to him, the most likely destination for Lowe is Williams, where his F1 adventures began back in 1987 when he was recruited by Patrick Head because of his skills in the realms of electronic control systems.
So, it is not a great surprise to hear such rumours because, let us not forget, back in 2013 Lowe was originally bound for Team Willy before Toto Wolff snaffled him away to Mercedes, when he himself was making the leap. That worked out well for both of them, but if they cannot now agree terms for the future, Williams is a good option for Lowe, as the team has money to spend (thanks to the generous nature of the Stroll Family) and a technical team that could benefit from some sprucing up. The team has made little real obvious
progress since 2014 and has now slipped back from third in the Constructors’ in 2014 and 2015 to fifth this year, embarrassingly behind Force India, which should not in theory be able to hold a candle to an F1 legend such as Team Willy.
With the right engine and a good facility, Williams ought to be able to beat Force India, but it has not been doing do and that means it is time for some spring cleaning in the technical department. There has already been talk of ex-Ferrari aero boss Dirk de Beer joining Williams, and with Pat Symonds creeping up towards retirement age, it is a good moment to shake the tree.
Lowe’s first job in F1 was at Williams between 1987 and 1992, at which point McLaren popped a major cheque in the post and made him head of R&D after Williams’s utter domination of the 1992 season, thanks largely to clever electronic systems. This led to some clever stuff on McLarens in 1993 and beyond and Lowe pecked his way up the order at McLaren to become Technical Director in 2011.
Lowe’s Mercedes contract runs out at the of the year and this means that there is no requirement for any gardening leave, which means that he could start at Williams on January 1. The new FW40 is already done but Lowe’s ambitions are a little bigger than that and Williams might be in a position to offer him the kind of management role that transcends engineering. He’d probably like a bit of equity as well, but the team is not likely to offer him more than share options, which it can easily do as it is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Some media are suggesting that this might be a package deal to help Mercedes secure Valtteri Bottas, but this doesn’t really make sense as Mercedes has no control over Lowe’s future, unless it gives him what he wants, so cannot offer him to Williams in exchange for Bottas, or something along those lines. one of the reasons is that Martini needs to have a driver who is old enough to drink alcohol in every country, while a little bird has also suggested that Stroll’s contract might specifically name Bottas as his team-mate, thus ensuring an experienced driver to set up the cars, and a known entity who ought to beat a Canadian rookie. what he doesnt eant is to be beaten by another rookie…