Lowe set to join Williams; Vasseur leaves too

Paddy Lowe (far left) will no longer be working at Mercedes with three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Paddy Lowe (left) will no longer be working at Mercedes with three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Formula One's winter of change continued on Wednesday, with Renault and team principal Frederic Vasseur parting company a day after champions Mercedes announced the departure of technical head Paddy Lowe.

Although likely to be unconnected, with Lowe expected to show up at Williams after a period of "gardening leave", the two exits provided further evidence of a major pre-season shake-up of the paddock landscape.

For the first time in 23 years, Formula One will start a season without a reigning world champion on the starting grid as a consequence of Nico Rosberg retiring five days after winning the drivers' title with Mercedes.

McLaren had already parted company with boss Ron Dennis, while engineering head Pat Symonds left Williams at the end of last year.

The Manor team are, meanwhile, facing an uncertain future after going into administration this month.

Renault, who took over the failing Lotus team at the end of 2015 and finished ninth of 11 teams last year, said the split with Vasseur was by mutual consent.

Lowe, who had been at Mercedes for 31/2 years, was a crucial factor in the team winning the past three constructors' championships.

He will not be replaced in the short term, with other staff expected to take on his duties, but it leaves Mercedes without a senior technical director. And they still have to announce a replacement for Rosberg.

Lowe had been in talks over a new contract since the close of last season but a deal could not be reached.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is confident they are strong enough to move forward without the 54-year-old. "Success in Formula One is not about single individuals but about the strength in depth and technical capability of an organisation," he said. "We have the talent in place to continue our success."

Lowe suggested that he will be joining another team, with the Mercedes board "wishing Paddy well with his future endeavours".

A possible replacement could be former Ferrari technical director James Allison, who left the Scuderia last July and is himself on gardening leave.

Lowe is understood to want to embrace the challenge of team management with Williams. He worked for them during their heyday in the 80s and 90s.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline 'Lowe set to join Williams; Vasseur leaves too'. Print Edition | Subscribe