NICE • Technical head Paddy Lowe could be about to follow newly retired Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg out of the door at the sport's No. 1 team, Mercedes.
The motorsport.com website reported that multiple sources "with good knowledge of the situation" have indicated that Lowe, who helped Mercedes win three successive constructors' titles, was set to join rivals Williams.
Mercedes, who were rocked by Rosberg's retirement announcement only five days after he won the world drivers' title at the end of last month in Abu Dhabi, had no comment on the speculation that has been rife since September.
There was no immediate response from Williams, who use Mercedes engines and whose Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has become the bookmakers' favourite to replace Rosberg next season.
Lowe started his F1 career with former world champions Williams in 1987, and spent six years there. The team finished fifth overall this year.
Williams' current technical head Pat Symonds is 63 and told Reuters in a recent interview that while he would still be at the team next year, he was also looking to reduce his workload.
Lowe's contract at Mercedes is due to expire at the end of the year, according to reports in Britain and Germany, and the 53-year-old's future has been the subject of considerable speculation.
McLaren, his previous employer, last week ruled out a move for the Briton amid reports that Lowe was poised to accept an offer from a rival team.
He is one of three top managers running Mercedes - the others being shareholders Toto Wolff, the team principal, and Niki Lauda, the non-executive chairman.
Were he to go, Mercedes are expected to sign former Lotus and Ferrari technical head James Allison, who is currently on "gardening leave".
On Saturday, Rosberg said he is looking forward to a quiet Christmas, after which he will plot his next big-time move - to become a movie star.
"I'd really like that," the blond and photogenic 31-year-old German said when asked what he would do next.
"I know some German actors. Perhaps one day that would be nice.
"I have some experience because, when you are a racing driver, you have to do a lot of filmed commercials. An action hero... that would make me very happy."
Rosberg's timetable since his retirement has been filled by promotional obligations, including Saturday's function with German insurance giant Allianz in Nice.
"The first true moment of free time will be at Christmas, I'm really excited about it," he added.
"I will be with my wife, my little girl, we'll be in Ibiza with a Christmas tree and enjoy a typical turkey dinner.
"Then I'm going to look for projects where I can use my competitiveness, but we will see in the new year."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE