McLaren says Mercedes wooed Lowe with ‘exotic salary’

McLaren suspects its former technical director Paddy Lowe was lured to Mercedes on the promise of a “telephone number salary”.

“From time to time we have all done it,” managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters this week, after McLaren confirmed it has installed Tim Goss in Lowe’s former role, as the 50-year-old begins a period of ‘gardening leave’. “People are prepared to pay exotic salaries and wait 12 or 18 months, or longer in some cases. That’s the state of the market,” he said.

It is strongly rumoured that Lowe is headed to Mercedes, where multiple sources insist he will almost certainly replace team boss Ross Brawn.

“He (Lowe) has to think about number one,” Jenson Button, who has worked closely with Lowe since joining the Woking based team as world champion in 2010, said. Button denied Lowe’s departure is a personal blow.

“I didn’t come here because Paddy was here, I didn’t come here because Lewis (Hamilton) was here,” said the 33-year-old. “I came here because this is McLaren, with its heritage and history, and – a word we always use, but it is the truth – its ‘strength in depth’.”

Having also lost star driver Hamilton to Mercedes, some have suggested McLaren’s similar failure to hang onto its top engineer is a major management error.

Neale insisted: “The reality is that if somebody rolls up and says ‘I don’t like being here, you are not paying me enough money’ or whatever, then even if you have a good contract, you don’t want them in the team anyway.”

So with Lowe looking set to oust Mercedes’ Brawn, could McLaren make a move for the former Ferrari technical director?

“Ross, by his own admission, would say he hasn’t achieved what he wanted to in the last few years,” answered Neale. “He is still a fantastic guy and still well respected through the industry — a great leader of men and a good technical guy.

“But it is about the chemistry and the blend,” he added.


McLaren replaces Mercedes-bound Lowe

Paddy Lowe is no longer McLaren’s technical director. Hot on the heels of reports the 50-year-old has been placed on ‘gardening leave’, the British team announced that long-time McLaren engineer Tim Goss has replaced Lowe.

“The great mystery is no more,” Tobias Gruner, the correspondent for Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, said. “The only thing missing is the official confirmation.”

He is referring to speculation Lowe will almost certainly be joining Mercedes after his ‘gardening leave’.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “He’s been a good and successful F1 technical director, and we wish him well when he embarks on a fresh challenge in 2014.”

Whitmarsh’s comment will increase speculation Lowe has been drafted by Mercedes to replace team boss Ross Brawn.

“I cannot officially say anything,” Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ new shareholder and executive chairman, told Reuters. “If Paddy Lowe is coming or not, I cannot tell you now … (but) Ross is in his position and will stay in his position. Everything is under control.”

Prior to the news about Lowe’s ‘gardening leave’ breaking, Brawn told F1’s official website on Monday: “I am responsible for the sporting side; running the team on an operational level.

“If we can maintain that then there will not be a problem.”

A report in the UK newspaper Express said confidently: “Brawn feels his status has been undermined and will not hang around the new regime.”


Mercedes-bound Lowe to miss 2013 opener

Having sat out the launch of the new MP4-28, McLaren’s technical director Paddy Lowe will now not travel to Australia for the 2013 opener.

The news continues the saga of Lowe’s uncertain future, with the Guardian newspaper claiming on Monday that a move to Mercedes for the 50-year-old is “a done deal”.

“He will join the team in time to oversee the massive (rule) changes for 2014,” said journalist Paul Weaver.

Weaver explained that Lowe will remain under contract to McLaren this year, but he will be on so-called ‘gardening leave’ in order to protect the Woking based team’s technical secrets.

Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn insisted recently that his position is safe, but Weaver thinks Lowe could eventually take over “unless Mercedes make significant progress” in the near future.


McLaren admits Lowe’s McLaren future uncertain

A notable absentee at the launch of McLaren’s 2013 car on Thursday was technical director Paddy Lowe.

Ross Brawn confirmed recently that Lowe, initially in talks with Williams, had discussed a possible future move to Mercedes. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh told reporters at Woking, where the wraps were taken off the evolutionary MP4-28, that 50-year-old Briton Lowe is staying put for 2013.

“The future is less certain,” he admitted.

As for why Lowe is sitting out the launch, Whitmarsh said the technical director made the decision himself, to save the team the “embarrassment” of facing up to the recent controversy on the eve of McLaren’s fiftieth anniversary.

Lowe “doesn’t want to be a distraction,” Whitmarsh said. “At his own election he felt it was inappropriate to be here.

“He’ll be part of the team for the rest of this year,” he added.

McLaren has followed Ferrari’s lead by switching to a novel ‘pull-rod’ layout for the MP4-28’s front suspension.

Racing it in 2013 will be Jenson Button and new arrival Sergio Perez.

“The MP4-28 isn’t merely a refinement of last year’s seven-race winning car,” McLaren said in a statement, “it’s a deep and sweeping redesign of an already successful chassis in several key areas.”


Mercedes offered Lowe a million euros

Mercedes has offered Paddy Lowe a million euros per year to switch from McLaren, the major German newspaper Bild claims.

None other than Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn on Thursday confirmed that talks with McLaren’s technical director have taken place, although Brawn strongly denied that he is being lined up to oust him.

Bild claims Mercedes’ offer would “double” 50-year-old Briton Lowe’s current salary. Having also switched from McLaren to Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton however denied any knowledge of the deal.

“I’ve been assured by Ross his commitment is for the long term and he is here to try to win with me,” the 2008 world champion told reporters at Brackley on Thursday.

Brawn added: “I’ve talked to Paddy. He is not coming. If I chose to leave the team Paddy will come. We have a fall-back plan. It is as simple as that.”

He attempted to fend off speculation that Nick Fry, team chief executive, is the first definite victim of the power struggle.

“Nick is still very much involved,” Brawn insisted. “All the changes will have an impact but he’ll certainly be here for a while.”

Hamilton – never far from controversy throughout his six year F1 career – argued it’s a good thing that Mercedes is exploring its options, having pledged to become a truly front-running team after three seasons of finishing clearly behind F1’s ‘big three’.

“I think it’s important that they are always analysing and seeing what can be improved and what adjustments need to be made because they want to win,” he added.

Finally, after Adam Parr’s departure at Williams was linked to Bernie Ecclestone, it is rumoured the F1 chief executive may be striking again, this time at Mercedes, to give Toto Wolff’s career another boost.

Brawn admitted he has “not always seen eye to eye” with Ecclestone, but told the Telegraph: “I would be very surprised. The thing Bernie wants is a strong Mercedes. Hopefully he recognises I am an asset to the team.”