Paddy Lowe could be offered a financial inducement not
to head for Mercedes, as McLaren battles to prevent its technical leader from being prised away just weeks before the 2013 F1 season gets underway.
Lowe, who has been with the Woking team for nearly 20 years, has become the latest rumoured target for the Mercedes team as it attempts to pull itself out of a slump that threatened to see it go pointless for the final six races of last season. Niki Lauda has already been installed as non-executive chairman and is believed to have been influential in luring both Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff to Brackley.
Despite the team already having a plethora of technical wizards, including team principal Ross Brawn and other recent acquisitions such as Loic Bigois, Aldo Costa and Bob Bell, Lowe is apparently being targeted as the final piece in the puzzle, in a bid to propel Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg into contention for the world title.
Unsurprisingly, however, McLaren are not likely to let the Briton slip easily through their fingers, with the UK's Daily Mail
newspaper among those speculating that a rethink of his remuneration could be on the cards, in the same way as the team restructured Adrian Newey's financial package when he was being courted by Jaguar – then led by one Niki Lauda - in the 1990s.
“Not only is the pint-sized boffin respected for his work, but he is now the pawn in a F1 power struggle: McLaren v Mercedes,” the 'paper's Jonathan McEvoy claimed, “So much so that the McLaren chairman, Ron Dennis, has opened up the famous company cheque book - the one that kept his then brilliant designer Adrian Newey out of Lauda's, and Jaguar's, clutches twelve years ago.
“Dennis has offered Lowe a rise, but not so much that it gravely distorts the company's pay structure. The argument was put to him that he might prefer to stick to purely engineering matters rather than involve himself in a wider role of hiring and firing and balancing budgets. Lowe had not made his mind up as of last night [Tuesday].”
The speculation surrounding Lowe has led to suggestions that Brawn, who guided the team to world championship success in 2009, and ultimately attracted the attention of Mercedes as a buyer, could be forced out, possible along with Nick Fry, who has remained with the team since it hit the F1 scene as British American Racing.
“It would be foolish to talk about replacing anyone,” Wolff told a media teleconference to mark his arrival as the new head of Mercedes motorsport, “That is speculation in the media, I think I would be aware of that. I've read it in the paper, that's all I can tell you. Obviously in F1 there is always a lot of speculation about personalities joining or not joining, but there's nothing I can tell you at this stage.
“Paddy is a recognised person in the paddock, he has been with McLaren for 15 or 20 years, [but] Ross is there and he is part of the team and I hope Ross is going to stay as long as possible. I admire what Ross has done - his track record is fantastic.”