Williams has confirmed that Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe has taken a leave of absence from the Formula 1 team, with just over a week to go before the opening round of the 2019 season.
Lowe, who re-joined Williams from Mercedes in early 2017, has overseen a slump in form at the operation, as it slipped to last in the Constructors’ Championship.
It scored just seven points last season amid fundamental flaws with its overhauled FW41.
It entered 2019 with a refreshed driver line-up in the form of Robert Kubica and George Russell while UK-based communications firm ROKiT replaced Martini as title partner.
But delays in readying its FW42 meant the team did not participate in pre-season testing until the afternoon of the third day.
Williams completed the least mileage across the course of the two tests and its car was comfortably the slowest, with both Kubica and Russell finishing at the foot of the timesheets.
Lowe stressed during testing that he did not feel his job was under threat and urged Williams to remain as a unit, believing it will emerge stronger from its current setback.
But on Wednesday evening a short Williams statement confirmed that “Paddy is taking a leave of absence from the business for personal reasons.”
No further information was supplied.
It ostensibly leaves Williams without a technical director just eight days before the opening Grand Prix of the season gets underway in Australia.
Lowe is a director at Williams but it is unclear whether he has a shareholding in the company.