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McLaren stung as Lowe follows Hamilton to Mercedes

Feb 27, 2013, 6:20 AM EDT

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Mercedes’s appetite for signing up staff from rival teams seems not to have been satisfied yet.

In the past two years the Silver Arrows have hired Aldo Costa (ex-Ferrari), Geoff Willis (HRT and previously Honda), Bob Bell (Renault) and Toto Wolff (Williams).

Their top-heavy management structure also includes Niki Lauda who was hired last September. And it is set to be further bolstered by the anticipated arrival of Paddy Lowe from McLaren.

McLaren confirmed on Monday that Lowe will leave them at the end of the year. The move that looked likely following his absence from the launch of the team’s 2013 F1 contender, the MP4-28.

Lowe is widely expected to follow ex-McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton to the Brackley-based team. Mercedes’ vision is fixed firmly on preparing for next year’s new regulations.

The move raises three questions. First, does this confirm that Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is being moved out of the picture? Mercedes have already jettisoned long-serving vice-president Norbert Haug during the off-season after scoring just one win in the last three years.

Second, what are the consequences for McLaren? In six months they’ve lost their protege and one of their top designers to Mercedes.

Having once been Mercedes’ only Formula One team their status has been diminished to the role of engine customer. Martin Whitmarsh must rue the assistance he gave Brawn in landing a supply of Mercedes engines when Honda quit the sport at the end of 2008.

And third, who will McLaren hire to replace their lost technical director? Suspicion has already fallen on Lotus technical director James Allison, though earlier this month he said he has a “long contract” with the team and “intends to honour” it.

According to McLaren, a “telephone number salary” was used to lure Lowe away. Are they prepared to do the same to replace him?

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

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