Rumours have been rife over the last year that Toto Wolff is to up sticks from the Mercedes Formula 1 team and head on to pastures new.
Up until now Wolff has denied the allegations that he is to leave the reigning world champions for Racing Point or the Mercedes Formula E team, and recently stated that he was committed to the team in the “short term”.
But while it is more than likely that the 48-year-old would stay at Mercedes beyond 2020, who would take his place as Team Principal if he were to leave?
In some respects, this would be the easiest move for Mercedes to make were they to lose Wolff. Cowell has worked for Mercedes since 2004 and was promoted to the role of Managing Director of of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in 2013.
Holding what is effectively the parallel role to Wolff on the engine side of things, Cowell will already be well known by the Mercedes board and will be fully aware of the way Mercedes operate.
Although he hasn’t had any direct involvement with managing the race team before, the move would be no different to Mattia Binotto’s appointment as Ferrari Team Principal when he took over the reigns from Maurizio Arrivabene.
James Allison is one of the most successful Technical Directors since Ross Brawn held the same role at Ferrari in the early 2000’s.
As everyone knows, Brawn went on to win a championship with a team bearing his own name, and was Team Principal at Mercedes for a short while before Wolff took over.
There is no doubt that Allison would be able to step up to the plate of Team Principal and he would no doubt do a great job. It is just whether Mercedes would want to move him away from a role where he has been so successful.
Having said that, Allison has taken on increasingly more media duties in the last year, so could it be an indication that the team are lining him up as Wolff’s eventual replacement?
Jonathan Wheatley is the current Sporting Director at Red Bull and has helped transform their pit crew into world beaters, with the team holding the world record for the fastest pit-stop.
But his expertise go way beyond the pit crew, and he has held a vital role at the team since 2006. Before that, he worked at Enstone through it’s various guises and worked his way up the ranks from junior mechanic to chief mechanic, so he has a fair share of knowledge of all aspects of a team.
After 14 years at the Milton Keynes-based team, a move to Mercedes a Team Principal would be the logical promotion for him, and might be the only job that would entice him away from Red Bull.
Otmar Szafnauer has done the rounds in Formula 1, having started out at BAR as Operations Director, before joining Honda in 2001.
He has been at Racing Point since 2009 (then known as Force India), and under his leadership the team has gone from strength to strength, regularly out-performing the budget the team has to its disposal.
The rumours recently circulating are that Wolff could take Szafnauer’s place at the team when it is re-branded to Aston Martin for 2021, and if that were to happen Szafnauer could be an ideal candidate to replace Wolff and it would be the easiest route for Mercedes to take if they were to fill the role with an external candidate.
It’s unlikely this would be the route that Mercedes would want to take, but although Lowe’s time at Williams didn’t work out, there are plenty of positives having him back as Team Principal.
Firstly, he has been in a leadership role at the Brackley-based squad before, when he was Executive Director, and although it didn’t work out entirely as either party hoped, that was partly down to the fact that Lowe and Wolff didn’t always see eye to eye.
With Wolff out of the picture, it could be the perfect opportunity for Lowe to return, and although there is a blip on his CV from his time at Williams, that wasn’t really his own doing.
He also has the added advantage of having worked with Hamilton before, both at Mercedes and at McLaren, so knows entirely how he operates, and it wouldn’t take much to get up to speed again.
It might be an outside bet, but with Lowe currently out of work, and having a familiarity with the team and proven success in the past, he could just be the perfect candidate for the job.