Paddy Lowe, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Williams technical chief Lowe takes “leave of absence” from team

2019 F1 season

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Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has stood down from his role nine days before the first practice session for the 2019 F1 season.

The team confirmed Lowe “has taken a leave of absence from the business for personal reasons”, effective immediately.

His departure comes after the team failed to complete its new FW42 chassis in time for it to participate in the start of testing. The car eventually ran for the first time on the third day of the eight-day pre-season test.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams last week denied claims the car was not completed on time due to delays with external suppliers or financial problems.

The FW42 was the second car to be completed under Lowe’s watch since he joined Williams from Mercedes two years ago. The team suffered a dire 2018 with the car’s predecessor, falling from fifth to 10th – and last – in the championship.

Lowe is the latest in a series of departures from Williams’ technical team in the last 12 months. During its troubles 2018 campaign chief designer Ed Wood left the team after 12 years at Williams and head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer departed the Grove-based team last May.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 83 comments on “Williams technical chief Lowe takes “leave of absence” from team”

    1. Awkward…..

    2. digitalrurouni
      6th March 2019, 20:49

      Uhh what?

    3. Best choice Williams could make.

      1. BlackJackFan
        7th March 2019, 4:41


        1. +1 He has been found out after riding on the coat tails of others for far too many years.

    4. Hemingway (@)
      6th March 2019, 20:52

      Smedley and Lowe out, just like I’ve been wishing for the past few years. Claire’s head will have to be on the block from here on- there are no more excuses.

      1. Something about her attitude has alway bothered me. I don’t care that she is a woman, Williams just need someone who is a better team principal. Claire just seems too complacent, she’s inherited the “family business” and doesn’t seem to share the passion for it, the way her father did. Seems like she’s just doing it because getting that position was easy for her. A name like williams should be a lot easyer to sell to sponsors than Force India/RP or Sauber. And also to get good people into the team, but still they can’t manage neither of these.

        1. @renee: Have you seen the Netflix ‘Williams’ documentary? There’s plenty of family dysfunction to go around. After watching it, can’t say the position is easy for her. Or would be for anyone, that is not Frank Williams.

          1. Haven’t seen it. So maybe it’s the opposite. She’s so set on proving herself to her father, that she can’t let go and can’t see she just isn’t cut out for this business.

            1. @renee: She may or may not be cut out for it, but now appreciate how difficult her job is – she isn’t the boss – Frank will never relinquish control.

            2. I think the documentary shows that she is very well cut out for the role. She is sensible, level headed and determined. Williams has had a troubled time for most of its existence. We always think of the glory years and forget about the fact that it had struggled before then and has struggled since. Part of this is the money. Williams is one of the only independent teams still left. MacLaren could be seen as an independent team although it has a road car division that was enabled by its ludicrously rich owners. The way money is divided up in F1 means Williams are unlikely to ever be number one again but they are trying to do the best they can with the limited money they have while competing against teams with incredibly rich owners. This years car certainly looks better than last years (which was obviously not hard) which is a start.

              Also Claire Williams did not inherit the business from her father. He still owns it and is still the number one in the company. He also did not want her in the position, she was put their by non-family members. On top of that she has had to put up with one of the Brothers being a complete idiot about it all. I think it is easy to look from the outside and think that she is not up to the job. However when you look deeper you see what a hard position she is in.

            3. Renee – Why isn’t Claire “cut out for this business”? Have you worked with her? Have you led a succesful F1 team?

              Armchair punditry simply does not cut it in the real world.

      2. Claire is and has been out of depth in this role and a bit of a Joke to be Frank

    5. As I recall Lowe had a substantial share in Williams f1.
      Strange but probably unavoidable looking at the development of the cars during his reign on the technical dept.

      1. Toto Wolff also had one at some point though.

      2. Take it from me: Paddy Lowe was not a shareholder, he held an (untriggered) share option.

        1. @dieterrencken: So… those share options… are they triggered now?

          1. Generally share options have a vesting period, and many are performance related. It seems like Paddy’s not going to be in a position to exercise those options.

          2. Under-appreciated this comment is

        2. I remember seeing that somewhere not too long ago (about the untriggered option) – guess Paddy was still undecided whether this was going to work between him and the team then @dieterrencken and now it seems he’s found that it wont?

      3. He has zero shares.
        Easy to check from their annual report.

        And even if you have shares you can still be fired (or decide to take a leave of absence)

        1. Charles Morgan at one time held 30% of Morgan shares but got fired as Managing Director, so it can and does happen.

          None of us armchair pundits actually know what goes on at Williams so all this apart from Dieter Rencken is speculation. I have booked pone of their Raceday Hospitality packages to watch a race from the Williams factory with live links to the pit wall, so will have a much better understanding after that.

    6. Not unexpected, but considering the rate at which bad news keep coming, I’m starting to worry whether Williams will survive this season.

    7. That news was looming for some times… Still, dunno if its a good move to remove the guy in charge of supervising the dev of the car after just 4-5 days of testing and 2 weeks before the beginning of the season…
      I found that the media where a bit exaggerating the impact of that “delay” and was still hoping that after some development the car might prove to be good… but now I’m really worried taht Williams is in for another year in hell…

      1. I think it’s still far too early to know if the car is good or not. Certainly there’s not enough data from the testing to be sure.
        What does seem to be reasonably certain, however, is that whatever role Lowe has been playing in the team (not just job title, but the day-to-day functions he is filling) has not been going well. My recollection is that Claire Williams has said that (1) external suppliers are not the issue (2) finances are not the issue (3) readjustment due to late technical changes contributed, but was not solely responsible for, their missing the start of testing.
        What that suggests to me is that even if the regulation changes hadn’t happened Williams were likely to be late for testing. She also has noted that the complexity of the car and testing was a contributing factor.
        My takeaway is that Lowe was either not able to cope with the demands of the role; or that he installed himself as a part of too many processes and so held up the operations; or that he could not make the various parts of the organisation work for him. Whatever the set of factors, I don’t think there’s any way not to see him as the person who is being held responsible.
        That isn’t to say that necessarily his personal leave is effectively dismissal – he might be dealing with very difficult personal circumstances or mental distress, which has compromised his performance, yet be welcomed back if he can ‘get his head on straight’ as it were. None of us schmucks in the comments know (though maybe Dieter does).
        Regardless, if the car comes good and results are encouraging, I don’t expect anyone bagging Lowe to come back and say they were wrong, but rather will attribute the success to his absence. And if the car doesn’t come good, they will likewise say that his involvement in development fatally compromised it.

        1. @bookgrub – good comment!

          1. Yes, I concur, @phylyp: nicely put, @bookgrub.

            I doubt this move is in any way temporary. If it was, I doubt very much they would make an official announcement, at least not with this flavour.

            So who is available to replace Lowe? Anybody fantastic available outside of the team or do you think they will promote from within?

            1. Éric Boullier springs to mind.

            2. @shimks I am not certain about a great many things, but Frank Williams would NEVER hand out chocolate to ANYONE, be it the Lord almighty himself. He’d let him win a championship with his divine driving ability and then fire him, its the Williams way.

              TL,DR: Can’t see Boullier at Williams

            3. I don’t think they have made an official announcement. There’s nothing on their social media or in the news on the Williams site. Unless there’s something in the media section (login required) I suspect that all they have done is provide a response to a direct question about Lowe. That seems entirely appropriate; unfortunately for us, it also tells us very little about the likely duration of this leave, finality of the leave, or really anything else. Stood down pending internal investigation? Family health emergency? Redoing the bathroom plumbing? All perhaps equally likely (okay, the plumbing maybe not quite as likely).

        2. My takeaway is that Lowe was either not able to cope with the demands of the role; or that he installed himself as a part of too many processes and so held up the operations

          If it’s this then it’s Sam Michael all over again.

          1. Exactly right. Sam Michael – nice chap though he may be – had an outsized impact at Williams and McLaren.

            1. Neither team has recovered!

        3. I remember at some point last year when asked when they knew the car was a dog… The response was after the first few laps of testing – I was shocked about that but that is what they said. So they know now if the car will be at least an improvement over last year of not.

      2. the guy in charge of supervising the dev of the car after just 4-5 days of testing

        That is 1 year plus 4-5 days of testing.

    8. At this point I just hope that they will have complete cars in Melbourne and use it as they first proper testing time :(.

    9. Is it good though to get rid of Paddy Lowe now though, is it not too late or even too early due to how much he knows about the technical side of the operation and car?

      1. I am sure there are many other in Williams that know the full technical aspects of the car. Lowe would not have designed and developed the car by himself… Also he may well be taking leave for various reasons and those reasons may have been part of the issue this year. Perhaps he is effectively being sacked or perhaps he is going through some serious issues that he needs to sort out, we just do not know.

      2. The car is awful. Why would any competitor be interested in the technical aspects of it?

    10. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      6th March 2019, 22:15


      It feels like they can write this season off already

    11. I guess it is just a matter of time until we get used to a 18-car grid…

      Too late for Williams now. With the uncertainty of F1 2021 rules, I doubt the team would even find a purchaser now. Sorry for the employees.

    12. Great news for Williams. Over the years I was wondering why Lowe is being rated highly. He was rubbish at McLaren, Mercedes realised this early enough and now he is killing Williams.

      1. User name checks out.

    13. Claire Williams should quit too. The fish rots from the head.

      1. In that case, it should be Sir Frank. Claire is deputy team principle. After watching the Williams documentary, I strongly suspect that is where a lot of the stubbornness to keep pace with changes in F1 comes from. But of course, that’s not going to happen, so it’s seemingly just a matter of time until Williams goes under.

    14. They should …. and one would at least hope, that they already have a potential replacement in the pipeline.
      If they don’t, then that doesn’t bode well for the short or long term.
      Where do I send my CV…??

      1. It’s probably best to consult William’s Career page on their website. Unfortunately, on the basis that if you don’t know what the advert means then you shouldn’t apply, I would consider myself out of contention for most of the jobs.

        1. They’ve got a couple IT positions that I would qualify for, but Brexit, and I wouldn’t take a job there for 3 times the normal salary. Quality of life is just too important to trade for money.

    15. It’s an old business principle that people rise through the ranks until they reach their level of incompetence, where they used to remain until retirement time, but I find it strange that Lowe could have reached that level and continued to move from team to team in such an incestuous industry as F1. Of course it’s easy to oversee the progress of a team with an unlimited budget and a glut of up and coming talent in every department, much harder to build a team when the budget limits the level of talent that can be attracted, I think the last really talented person to go to Williams because of their reputation was Mark Webber, and we know how that worked out don’t we, even if we can’t remember which century that was.

      1. I’m not sure what he’s really done at McLaren, but his impact at Mercedes has been negligible. The whole team has been built by Brawn and Wolff (hate to say it) does a good job in keeping it humming.

        He seems to be perfectly qualified for current McLaren though ;)

      2. The basic principle is called “Parkinson’s Law”.

        1. Actually, it’s ‘Peter Principle’

          1. Yes, you’re correct, it is the Peter Principle. Apologies to any affected.

            1. @drycrust, and that is why I did not name it myself. I learned long ago when sparring with @prisonermonkeys, that any little error totally eclipsed the point I was trying to make.

            2. Ha ha! We need people to remind us we’re human.

      3. He was at his peak 30 years ago – at Williams…

    16. Ben (@scuderia29)
      6th March 2019, 22:46

      I don’t know exactly why, but when williams revealed this year’s car I had a feeling it might be there last, and with more diabolical news, I’m more convinced, hopefully a manufacturer swallows the team up and rebrands, such a shame after the resurgence in 2014, I feel for the drivers too

      1. Please no ‘rebrand’.

    17. This is a long-time pattern now at Williams. Sam Michael, Adam Parr and Toto Wolff seemed to be groomed into team principal positions at one time or another…and they all left. Claire Williams inherited that role, but she can hardly leave, can she? Paddy Lowe was supposed to be a big catch in the Bottas trade, but now is apparently being pushed out. Whatever the circumstances…it just can’t be good.

    18. Before too much vitriol is poured on, maybe we should all remember that quite often “personal reasons” is indicative of a serious health/family issue.

      Whilst the timing is indeed unfortunate, let’s not assume that it’s all about the 2019 car. It could conceivably be a case of Paddy delaying taking time away until the car was completed to the detriment of whatever the problem may be.

      I feel for Clare – she just can’t catch a break, and if it indeed is the sort of problem I’ve mentioned for Paddy, I wish him well.

      1. @dbradock No it’s a common enough phrase by the higher-ups when they’ve been let go and haven’t got a new place to go to. They aren’t fired, they ‘resign for personal reasons’.

        1. and that is usually shortly after hearing that their boss has the fullest confidence in them….

      2. Duncan Snowden
        7th March 2019, 15:32

        Well said. It’s certainly true that it’s also often used to save face when someone’s given the boot, but let’s hold our fire until we know for sure. If it really is for personal reasons, then some of the comments round here aren’t going to age well.

    19. I hope that everything is OK with Paddy personally. Given the timing with Williams dire situation, it is unfortunate, but I do feel that they’ll pull thru one way or another.

    20. All the speculation is that Paddy Lowe was fired. What if he accepted a role else where and is now on ‘gardening leave’

      1. What if he retired and is actually going to spend time in his garden?

    21. BlackJackFan
      7th March 2019, 4:56

      If Lowe does have a genuine ‘personal problem’ then he has my sympathy, but he is still right to leave… If he doesn’t then it is best he leaves… all be it, the timing is pretty horrendous… However, in such a situation how can the ‘timing’ ever be the deal-breaker…?
      I’m not the only one who had major doubts about Lowe during the second half of 2018, but maybe the human-nature tendency to keep delaying/denying the inevitable is also a problem here… with everybody hoping for an about-turn ‘very soon’… but it rarely happens… which is why announcements like this happen.
      Maybe this is the rallying-call that the Williams staff need… I hope so.

    22. So, he is moving to a new team? Ferrari? Renault? McLaren?

      1. That would certainly throw shade on the “personal issue” reasoning. If it’s genuinely a personal issue, it would remain the case no matter which team. Given the wording, and timing, and lack of other supportive language that usually accompanies when it is a personal issue, I suspect the issue is that he’s got no hands free because he is holding his hat.

    23. Wondering what Williams can do to fill this spot on a such short notice, because this was clearly not a planned move. They should have gotten Andy Green back when Force India was in dire straights.

      1. And Bob Fearnley to run the team

        1. BlackJackFan
          7th March 2019, 18:35

          And still nobody is saying what happened to Bob – and why…!

          1. He’s in IndyCar with Mclaren now.

            1. BlackJackFan
              10th March 2019, 3:13

              Thank you – I seem to have missed that… ;-)

    24. I’d love to read in Paddy’s words of his experience with Williams, all we see is the results and who’s at the helm.

    25. georgeboole (@)
      7th March 2019, 8:03

      Do personal reasons mean he has a new job and we will see him in 6 months working for the FIA?
      Just saying…

      1. @georgeboole Possibly. Who knows?

    26. we can never know paddy lowes input other thn what the team let us know. in the world of f1 the competition is soo high…

    27. Well Thanks for Nothing Paddy Leave

      1. Yeah he left on a lowe note

    28. I’m starting to believe it’s not just a personal leave. Looks like a lot of things went wrong with this year’s car.

    29. Electroball76
      7th March 2019, 20:21

      Could they hire Dallara or someone to help with the chassis design?

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