February 27th (GMM).- McLaren suspects its former technical director Paddy Lowe was lured to Mercedes on the promise of a "telephone number salary".
"From time to time we have all done it," managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters this week, after McLaren confirmed it has installed Tim Goss in Lowe's former role, as the 50-year-old begins a period of 'gardening leave'.
"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 is strongly rumoured that Lowe is headed to Mercedes, where multiple sources insist he will almost certainly replace team boss Ross Brawn.
"He (Lowe) has to think about number one," Jenson Button, who has worked closely with Lowe since joining the Woking based team as world champion in 2010, said.
Button denied Lowe's departure is a personal blow.
"I didn't come here because Paddy was here, I didn't come here because Lewis (Hamilton) was here," said the 33-year-old.
"I came here because this is McLaren, with its heritage and history, and - a word we always use, but it is the truth - its 'strength in depth'."
Having also lost star driver Hamilton to Mercedes, some have suggested McLaren's similar failure to hang onto its top engineer is a major management error.
Neale insisted: "The reality is that if somebody rolls up and says 'I don't like being here, you are not paying me enough money' or whatever, then even if you have a good contract, you don't want them in the team anyway."
So with Lowe looking set to oust Mercedes' Brawn, could McLaren make a move for the former Ferrari technical director?
"Ross, by his own admission, would say he hasn't achieved what he wanted to in the last few years," answered Neale.
"He is still a fantastic guy and still well respected through the industry -- a great leader of men and a good technical guy.
"But it is about the chemistry and the blend," he added.