Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he advised Mercedes to lure Lewis Hamilton from McLaren.
Many were surprised when Hamilton decided to leave established top team McLaren for 2013 and beyond, but it now emerges that Paddy Lowe is set to follow suit.
“I told Mercedes, ‘If you get Lewis, you’ll get all the right kind of people for the future’,” Ecclestone said in an interview with Bild newspaper.
“They’ll now get people who believe they are working on a winning team,” he added.
The downside, for McLaren, is having lost two of the most highly-rated figures – 2008 world champion Hamilton and technical boss Lowe – in the paddock.
“McLaren is not as strong now,” agreed Gerhard Berger, in a pre-season interview with Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper.
“Sergio Perez is not going to put Jenson Button under the same kind of pressure (as Hamilton did),” said the former McLaren driver.
And former Renault boss Flavio Briatore told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “McLaren without Hamilton is a lot weaker.”