Paddy Lowe has left his role as Mercedes executive director (technical) following months of speculation of a move to Williams, according to various reports.
Lowe, a key architect of the team's dominant spell since the introduction of V6 turbos in 2014, was first linked with a switch in December, just days after Mercedes lost world champion Nico Rosberg to retirement. The following week, Williams confirmed Pat Symonds would be leaving his role as technical director when his contract expired on December 31, paving the way for Lowe to replace him.
The departure of Lowe comes with Mercedes and Williams locked in discussions about Valtteri Bottas, who the world champions are lining up to replace Rosberg. This has led to suggestions Lowe's departure is linked, with Mercedes perhaps not enforcing his gardening leave in order to sweeten the Bottas deal for Williams.
The deal had been reported earlier in the day by Sky Sports and was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon by a Mercedes press release.
The Lowe news is likely to speed up Mercedes' announcement of Bottas' arrival, which in turn should prompt Williams to confirm Massa's return and Sauber to confirm the signing of Pascal Wehrlein. Mercedes had been keen to ensure junior driver Wehrlein did not end up without a seat for next year and Sauber may well be the last remaining seat of the cars which appear on the grid in Australia given Manor's financial demise at the start of this year.
Lowe joined McLaren as engineering director in 2005 and had become technical director by 2011. He remained at the team until 2013, when he switched to Mercedes, a move which prompted Ross Brawn to step down as technical chief. Under his technical leadership, Mercedes produced the all-conquering W05, W06 and W07 cars which have combined for 51 wins from a possible 59 over the last three years.
The news leaves Mercedes without a technical chief going into the new season, though former Ferrari technical director James Allison is the early favourite to replace Lowe, though he is currently serving his own period of gardening leave after leaving Maranello last July.