McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe will join rivals Mercedes and follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton, although he will not make the move until the end of the 2013 F1 season.
According to British newspaper, The Guardian
, Lowe will miss the season opening Australian Grand Prix next month, and while he remains a McLaren employee, he has been placed on 'gardening leave' and is not expected to appear at any races this year.
It had been thought that Lowe's recruitment by Mercedes would lead to the exit of current team principal, Ross Brawn, although now that is not so certain, it is claimed.
"Lowe's rumoured move to Mercedes is a done deal," writes the 'papers Paul Weaver. "He will join the team in time to oversee the massive changes for 2014, when the engines will downsize from V8s to V6 1.6 litre turbo charged units.
"Lowe's arrival will not necessarily lead to Brawn's departure. It now seems that tensions between Brawn and the team's new non-executive chairman, the occasionally fractious Niki Lauda, have eased under the calming influence of Toto Wolff, who joined Mercedes as the director of motorsport from Williams at the start of the year, replacing Norbert Haug, and has since battled to establish stability.
"That has been his repeated theme. Wolff recognises that his arrival, together with that of Lauda and Lewis Hamilton, has created enough turbulence at the team's Brackley headquarters."
Brawn's position, however, remains 'the subject of speculation': "He will be 60 next year and unless Mercedes make significant progress by then he is likely to move on, with Lowe taking charge of operations," adds the report.
Rumours linking Lowe to Mercedes first surfaced last month and while it was subsequently claimed that he might be offered a financial inducement not
to head to Brackley, it appears those talks failed.
Lowe was notably absent when McLaren launched its new car on January 31, with the seat to the left of F1 team principal Martin Whitmarsh in the audience conspicuously empty.
"The one certainty is that Paddy will be a part of the team for the rest of this year," Whitmarsh said at the time. "It's less certain, as has been speculated in the media, beyond that. It's something I'm sure we will have some certainty on in the near future."