Paddy Lowe, the Williams technical director, has paid the price for the team’s acute pre-season struggles, last night taking a leave of absence that is expected to be made permanent.
While an official statement described him as stepping aside for an undefined period for ‘personal reasons’, the 56-year-old, once a crucial member of Lewis Hamilton’s support network at Mercedes, is almost certain not to return.
Anger towards Lowe had been growing for some time at Williams, after the team dismally under-performed last year, finishing bottom of the constructors’ standings.
But patience was finally exhausted when they failed even to arrive for last month’s first winter test in Barcelona with a functioning car. With their machine taking to the track two-and-a-half days late, costing crucial preparation time, the decision was made to cut Lowe adrift.
For this once highly-respected Cambridge graduate, it is a remarkably rapid fall from grace. A little over two years ago, Lowe was deftly handling the fierce rivalry at the front of the grid between Mercedes team-mates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.