BBC News say they have learn that Mercedes are thinking about swapping technical director Paddy Lowe for Valtteri Bottas as the replacement for Nico Rosberg. The Williams team have already rejected an initial offer but are considering releasing Lowe as part of the deal.
It’s understood that Lowe is to be replaced by former Ferrari technical director James Allison. Toto Wolff has picked Bottas as his favourite driver following the shock retirement of Rosberg earlier this month after winning his first world title last month despite having two further years on his Mercedes contract.
Williams offer from Mercedes is believed to be a major reduction in their engine bill and their reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein, who is currently without a seat for 2017. Wolff believes the 27-year old is a close like-for-like replacement for Rosberg – quick, a reliable and consistent points scorer, and relatively easy to manage alongside the more mercurial Hamilton.
Williams have said no to Wolff’s first offer but negotiations are expected to continue in the coming days. The Williams team believe they needed experience alongside rookie Lance Stroll who has a budget of £20m and feel that Wehrlein, who would be in his second season, would be a risk for Williams in terms of championship position.
Another issue is there Martini sponsorship; this would be difficult PR as both are under 25. Wehrlein is also in talks with the Swiss Sauber team, which is yet to name a team-mate for Swede Marcus Ericsson.
Mercedes are unlikely to risk moving Wehrlein in because of a lack of experience, but could be their last result. Mercedes’ other choices are limited – every other driver with experience is contracted to a rival.
It’s understood also Red Bull owned Toro Rosso would release Carlos Sainz should they ask, but are unlikely to release Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen. This however, looks impossible after the engine saga in 2015 when they refused to supply Red Bull with an engine.
If Lowe were to leave it would leave Mercedes without a ‘general manager’ as he has overall control of the sporting and technical sides of the team, with only Wolff in a more senior role.
Williams have been talking with Lowe for months, with sources close to the deal say he is now on the verge of finalising an agreement to re-join the outfit where he started his F1 career nearly 30 years ago.
The favourite to replace Lowe is the former Ferrari Technical Director James Allison. Sources within Mercedes say that that Allison has agreed a deal to run the technical and design side of the team. But he can’t join the team until July because of a clause in his Ferrari contract meaning he could not join a rival until the summer of 2017.
Lowe would also have the same clause in his contract, meaning he would have a notice period of at least six months once he and Wolff have held the talks that will determine his future.
Allison is believed to be already committed to Mercedes as McLaren have been told that Allison is not available because he is committed to another team.