December 20, 2016 / 4:06 PM / 7 months ago

Motor racing-Technical head Symonds to leave Williams F1 team

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LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Technical head Pat Symonds will leave Williams next week, the Formula One team announced on Tuesday amid speculation that Paddy Lowe is set to join from champions Mercedes in a similar role.

"Pat will be departing on 31st December 2016," the team said in a statement.

Symonds, a 63-year-old who worked with Ayrton Senna at Toleman in the 1980s and Michael Schumacher at Benetton in the 1990s, joined Williams in 2013.

"Pat's appointment was the start of a major restructuring exercise, and he has been pivotal in reshaping Williams into what is a much stronger racing team today," deputy principal Claire Williams said.

"We now look to the future and will be announcing details regarding the team's technical leadership in due course."

Symonds left Formula One in 2009 when his then employers Renault were embroiled in a race-fixing scandal after it emerged that they had ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet to crash deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The Briton returned as a consultant in 2011 with Virgin Racing, now Manor.

His departure from Williams means the former world champions, who finished fifth this year, will be undergoing a significant internal shift as they start the year with new rules and a different driver line-up.

While 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll will be making his race debut in March, his team mate remains uncertain after the surprise retirement of Mercedes' newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg.

Williams' current driver Valtteri Bottas is the bookmakers' favourite to replace Rosberg.

If the Finn is allowed to go, Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa is tipped to come back of the retirement he started at the end of November. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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