By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton will be reunited with Paddy Lowe sooner than expected after Mercedes announced on Monday that the former McLaren technical head was joining their Formula One team next month.
Mercedes said in a statement that the Briton had been appointed executive director (technical) and would start on June 3 - the week of the Canadian Grand Prix - after agreement was reached with McLaren for him to be released from the remaining seven months of his contract.
Lowe will work closely with team principal Ross Brawn, the man he could one day replace, who retains overall responsibility for technical and sporting matters.
McLaren had already put Lowe on 'gardening leave', removing him from sensitive work, with Tim Goss being promoted to the role of technical director. They announced last week that they would switch from Mercedes engines to Honda in 2015.
Lowe's arrival at Mercedes, who signed 2008 world champion Hamilton last year, had been flagged up since January when reports indicated that he was being lined up as Brawn's replacement.
"I am delighted to welcome Paddy to the team and to begin working together. He has an excellent record of success in the sport and would be an asset to any of our rivals in the pit lane," said Brawn.
"It is no secret that every team is facing a significant balancing act between this year and next. But it is perhaps less obvious that we will also see major changes for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, as development progresses with the new generation of car design and Power Unit," he added.
"To deliver in these circumstances, a successful team needs strength in depth. Paddy's arrival will further strengthen our organization and puts us in a strong position for the future."
The rules are changing significantly next year, with a new 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 engine with energy recovery systems replacing the current 2.4 liter V8 units.
Mercedes already have a long list of former team technical directors working for them, while Toto Wolff is executive director for business and head of Mercedes' motorsport program.
Brawn, Bob Bell, Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa were all previously technical directors at other teams and Lowe makes it a quintet on a Mercedes payroll that also includes outspoken former champion Niki Lauda as non-executive chairman and shareholder.
"The team has already produced probably the fastest car of the 2013 season while the technical challenges of the new regulations for 2014 will give us the opportunity to maximize the synergies available to a works manufacturer," said Lowe in the team statement.
"That is a challenge I am relishing. I have worked closely with Mercedes-Benz for almost 20 years and deeply admire the company's phenomenal commitment to Formula One. I look forward to much success together in the years ahead."
Mercedes have been on pole position for the last three races but have had problems managing the tires and have faded on the Sunday, with Hamilton slipping from second on the grid to 12th at the last race in Spain.
Hamilton and German team mate Nico Rosberg will however be among the favorites at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, where overtaking is tricky and the driver starting on pole has a considerable advantage.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)