WOKING, England (Reuters) - Jenson Button shrugged off the departure of top-rated McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe on Tuesday and said the team’s Formula One title challenge would not suffer.
Speaking a day after McLaren announced that Lowe had been replaced by Tim Goss and would leave at the end of the year, the 2009 world champion said such upheaval was all part of the sport.
“I really like Paddy. It’s been good fun working with him over the past three years, not just in a working relationship, but also as a friend because he is a good guy, a fun character,” the Briton, now the most experienced driver on the F1 starting grid, told reporters at the McLaren factory.
“But things change, he wants to try something new, a new challenge, which is fair play to him. He has to think about number one. Good luck to him.”
Button moved to McLaren in 2010 after winning his championship with Brawn GP - the team that is now Mercedes and is expected to be Lowe’s next employer - and he said that decision was down to no one individual.
“I didn’t come here because Paddy was here, I didn’t come here because Lewis (Hamilton) was here,” said the 33-year-old, who will be starting his 14th year in F1 when the racing gets under way in Australia on March 17.
”I came here because this is McLaren, with its heritage and history - a word we always use, but it is the truth - and its strength in depth.
“It’s not about one individual, it’s about the full team, and Paddy leaving is part of the sport, people move around and go to different places. This team will succeed with or without Paddy in the future.”
McLaren won seven races last year - Hamilton four and Button the others including the season-opener and closer - with a car designed by Goss.
Button, whose new team mate is Mexican Sergio Perez following the departure of 2008 champion Hamilton to Mercedes, said Goss’s bigger role was a positive step.
“Having Tim in the position he is now in - fantastic. He was exceptional in his previous role, and I think he will be in this role...he knows exactly what he is doing,” he said.
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters that he and the team would miss Lowe, who has been at Woking for 19 years, but the team were resilient and structured enough to cope.
“I‘m confident we’re strong for the season, and strong for the future,” he said.
Mercedes have made no comment on Lowe’s likely arrival for 2014 but Neale left no doubt that he had been lured away by some hefty incentives and rejected any suggestion that McLaren had slipped up.
“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,” he said.
“It would be disappointing if we weren’t regarded as a place to hire good people because then I wouldn’t be doing my job. The real test is whether we have got a system in place to pick up people from underneath, and I believe we have,” he added.
“In the market place at the moment, 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.”
editing by Ed Osmond