The Mercedes F1 team has officially placed its executive technical director Paddy Lowe on leave, ahead of him leaving the reigning F1 world champion squad.
A replacement for Lowe has yet to be announced, Mercedes issuing a statement to the effect that its technical structure will remain unchanged.
In the statement, Mercedes said: "The company's board wishes Paddy well with his future endeavours and thanks him for his significant contribution to the team's achievements.
"In the short term, our stable technical organisation will continue to operate under the proven and established leadership of our senior directors Aldo Costa (engineering director), Mark Ellis (performance director), Rob Thomas (chief operating officer) and Geoff Willis (technology director)."
Lowe, who in recent months had been widely rumoured to be contemplating an offer from the Williams team, played a key role in Mercedes’ three consecutive double F1 world championships.
"Paddy has played an important part in our success during the past three and a half years and we thank him for his contribution to this significant chapter in Mercedes' motorsport history,” Mercedes’ motorsport boss Toto Wolff said.
"Success in Formula 1 is not about single individuals but about the strength in depth and technical capability of an organisation.
"We have the talent in place to continue our success of recent years and we plan to build upon it in 2017 and beyond."
Lowe said he was looking forward to a ‘new challenge’ and wished everyone at his former team well.
That new challenge for the moment might be a season’s ‘gardening leave’, should Mercedes decide to enforce the terms of its contract.
Alternatively, Lowe might be granted free passage to Williams in 2017 as part of a swap arrangement between the two teams as Mercedes seeks to secure Williams’ lead driver Valtteri Bottas as replacement for Nico Rosberg, who unexpectedly retired at the end of last season.