McLaren play down significance of Paddy Lowe's move to Mercedes

For the second time in five months McLaren have fallen prey to the might of Mercedes' ambition

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The Independent Online

McLaren have dismissed suggestions they could have done more to prevent the departure of technical director Paddy Lowe.

For the second time in five months McLaren have fallen prey to the might of Mercedes' ambition with Lowe set to follow Lewis Hamilton out of the exit door at the team's Woking HQ.

With a year remaining on his contract, Lowe will not be allowed to move to Mercedes until the end of 2013 - and crucially will play no further part in McLaren's Formula One operation in the coming campaign.

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale learned of Lowe's intention to quit around eight weeks ago as Mercedes seemingly made him an offer he could not refuse, despite being one of the most highly-paid employees at McLaren.

Neale insists money was not an issue, and although Lowe was under contract, there was nothing they could do to prevent him from walking away.

"If someone rolls up and says 'I don't like being here' or 'you're not paying me enough money', even if you've a water-tight contract to tie them in - and in this case we did have a very good contract - you don't want them in the team anyway," said Neale.

"So I don't review the situation as being a management slip-up, but I'm not surprised people are coming through this team at the moment and other people are prepared to pay exotic salaries and wait 12 or 18 months, or longer in some cases. That's the state of the market.

"If you've a team and you want to go out and buy some short-term know-how then you can pay telephone-number salaries, if that's what your business model is.

"From time to time we have all done it. It's not unique to any one particular team."

Neale insists McLaren have a structure in place that softens the blow of Lowe's exit with the new F1 season just over a fortnight away.

After 23 years at McLaren, Tim Goss has stepped up from his position as engineering director with immediate effect.

Neale added: "It would be foolish to say we're not going to miss him, but at the same time we have designed an organisation that's broad at the top, and we've a resilient team.

"Tim has also been with us a long time, and he's a good seasoned professional, so in the short term it's not an issue for us.

"I'm confident we're strong for the season, and strong for the future."

Driver Jenson Button echoed Neale's remarks, and although he too will miss Lowe after building up a good friendship and working relationship, he knows the team has the strength in depth to cope.

"Things change, he wants to try something new, a new challenge, which is fair play to him. He has to think about number one, so good luck to him," said Button.

"But this team will succeed with or without Paddy in the future."