Transition complete. Over and out. Ron Dennis, McLaren, Team Principal, Chairman. Photo by xpb.cc. Former McLaren Formula One team boss, chief exec and figurehead for one of the sport's most successful programs, Ron Dennis on ...
Transition complete. Over and out.
Former McLaren Formula One team boss, chief exec and figurehead for one of the sport's most successful programs, Ron Dennis on Thursday severed his ties to the F1 team. He handed over complete control to Martin Whitmarsh, who moved into the team principal position earlier this year.
Dennis, 61, will remain with the McLaren Group to pursue development of a sports car project.
"As of today, Ron Dennis has handed his responsibility as chief executive officer at McLaren racing to Martin Whitmarsh, who will be responsible to the board for the activities of McLaren Racing in addition to his role of team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes," a McLaren statement read.
Dennis first worked a grand prix more than 40 years ago. He rose from working as a mechanic for Cooper then Jack Brabham's team to running a team, beginning in 1981, that won seven constructors' world championships and 10 drivers' world titles. McLaren champions included Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton. Dennis began McLaren financial support of Hamilton 11 years ago. Aside from strong leadership that bumped up against the sport's governance on more than one occasion, Dennis became known for a multisyllabic speaking style dubbed "Ronspeak."
"I admit I'm not always easy to get on with," Dennis said in the statement. "I admit I've always fought hard for McLaren in Formula One. I doubt if (FIA president) Max Mosley or (Formula One supremo) Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by my decision. But no one asked me to do it. It was my decision."
Dennis was the driving force behind construction of a striking headquarters, the McLaren Technology Centre, at Woking, England. The building houses the automotive-related companies known as McLaren Group. The design won awards from the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Queen Elizabeth officially opened the center in 2004.
McLaren's racing success was overshadowed two years ago by an industrial spying scandal in which hundreds of pages of confidential Ferrari documents wound up in McLaren possession. Dennis denied the team knew about the documents and blamed a "rogue employee." It was later revealed his drivers were well aware of the documents; they traded e-mail messages about setup based on the information. Discipline included loss of constructors points for the season -- a sure loss of another world title -- and a fine of $100 million, later halved.
Dennis leaves as the F1 team struggles to be competitive under changed rules and McLaren Mercedes face another damaging scandal. With Dennis in race attendance, team members told stewards at the Australian Grand Prix that driver Hamilton had not been told to let Toyota driver Jarno Trulli pass under a safety-car period. Radio communications indicated the contrary. Stewards handed Trulli a time penalty for the late-race pass that dropped him to 12th place and advanced Hamilton to third. Officials investigated the matter more fully and determined Hamilton and team manager Dave Ryan, since fired, had lied about the matter. Officials disqualified McLaren Mercedes from the Australian race. Hamilton made a public apology and blamed Ryan. Dennis said he had no involvement in the incident or the decisions that resulted.
McLaren face a hearing before the FIA on April 29. Cases to answer include impugning the sport through knowingly gaining position at the expense of a competitor. Discipline could include suspension from a number of races or the 2009 championship.