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Why it was time for Ron Dennis to stop
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Why it was time for Ron Dennis to stop
Posted By:   |  16 Jan 2009   |  3:18 pm GMT  |  0 comments

Today’s McLaren launch was a quietly confident affair. The team looked composed and calm ahead of what is likely to be a hard fought and chaotic season, with complex new rules and an intense development programme away from the circuit. And then just as the thing was winding to a close, Ron Dennis, the sport’s most successful entrant, goes and lets slip that he’s standing down as team principal at the end of February.

It’s no great surprise in one sense; he is 61 years old and has been discussing stepping down for some time. He was under pressure from the authorities to quit in 2007 during the Stepney spy scandal, but he toughed it out, determined to stay in charge until Lewis Hamilton had clinched the world title, which he regarded as the culmination of a project he put in place over 10 years ago.

But that success and the pleasure it gave him seemed to have given him a fresh love of the sport and renewed motivation. So it was still mildly surprising that he chose today to announce that he was finally going to allow his loyal deputy of 20 years, Martin Whitmarsh, to take the top job. As Ron said, they’ve been sharing the job for years anyway and practically speaking Martin has been the boss for a few years, with Ron the figurehead who makes his presence felt at race meetings and in the public arenas. There will not be much change in the way McLaren goes about its business, although they will probably enjoy better relations with the FIA now that Dennis is out of the way.

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  1. Dave Walker says:

    Am really going to miss Ron he was such an influential character at the races, and I think he will be sorely missed by the masses for his complete professionalism in tough times, I think team bosses up and down any pit lane in the world can take several leafs out of his book. What a professional!!! Who can honestly say they wouldn’t have lost it in 2007 with those accusations flying about and two of the most competitive drivers in the world going at each other hammer and tong, incredible, absolutely incredible. What a man. And if your reading this Ron I hope you have a great time winding down, god knows you deserve it. You have been a great ambassador for the sport but most of all a true gentleman.

    May the future bring you happiness and peace.

  2. mattanddebz says:

    It’s probably the least surprising semi-retirement and i’d imagine the one with the least impact. Whitmarsh and Dennis have been working in tandem for some time so I very much doubt we’ll notice any difference. I’m glad we’ll still see him at some of the races.

    I think the timing was right. Having finally clinched the driver’s title after so long without it, major regulation changes for next season and a business outside of F1 that could do with a strong leader committed to guiding it through a global economic downturn.

  3. Duncan says:

    The timing of this interests me, why make the announcement a couple of months before the new season (presumably he’s told the team well in advance of this).

    The other point of interest I drew was this quote from Ron: “It’s time for Martin to take over. It is 100% my decision – this is a job he will embrace and from now most race-day decisions will be his.”

    What does he mean by “most race-day decisions”, i.e. is he not really handing over the reigns?

  4. Facchetti says:

    If you weigh up the negative and positive press that Ron Dennis has generated in the past few years you could argue that he had become a net negative for the McLaren cause (the wrangles with the FIA, other teams and even his tenuous grip on his own young charge, Hamilton, as betrayed by those indiscreet pit radio out-takes). Is it possible that the sport/business of F1 has now outgrown the old school characters that were so influential in its formation? Dennis, like Ecclestone, Mosley and other “old boys”, had increasingly appeared to be just slightly out of synch and uncomfortable in this new media world where image is everything, media relations are ever more demanding and control is so difficult to maintain. Still, as an “old boy” myself, I will miss his grumpy ways.

  5. Finn says:

    Very happy to see Ron shuffle from centre stage … have never been a fan of his ‘management’ style and will never forgive him for the way he treated Alonso. Just a great pity that he gets to go with a WDC glowing in the distance …. if only Ferrari hadn’t made so many mistakes and handed the season to Lewis/Macca/Ron.

    Hope Martin will do well, but feel he can be a bit too ‘soft’ and ‘wobbly’ and wonder if he really has the drive to push the team on. Expect Macca will slip this year a little during the transition. A job for Ross Brawn if Honda doesn’t get bailed out?

  6. Evan S says:

    I don’t see Ross Brawn anywhere else but Williams if things don’t work out at ex-Honda.

  7. David says:

    Interesting to read that Ron Dennis is not leaving McLaren altogether and will still attend all the races. If he is still on the pit wall on occasion will he really be able to resist the opportunity to “take over”? Better surely that he stays back at Woking on race weekends.

  8. jose says:

    Nobody is talking about the possibility of dennis buying honda. Maybe i am crazy, but all of a sudden mercedes will give the engines, no dead line, they are just waiting for sponsorship to be found , dennis steps down, ferrari gets out of the picture, and if this happens, mercedes will take full control of mclaren, and ron dennis sure would go to some races.
    Is not like starting from zero, and would have ross brown under contract, away from ferrari and alonso in the future. He is 61, still young to keep going for a while.

  9. Jamie Giles says:

    Never laughed so much! Thank you for that comment jose :)

    Heard it all now! My bet is for the queen to buy the team and take rubens seat for next year!

  10. Mike Ellison says:

    I’m sorry to see Ron go but I’ll not be surprised to see him back at work on the 1st March. We see that from so many people of that personality type. I too worry that although Martin is a great wing-man, I’m not sure he’s got the spark to be a great team boss. Hopefully Ron will give him the chance to show us what he’s got.

    On the subject of Alonso, I remember Ron telling us how good he was at managing Latin drivers when Montoya joined them and we saw how well that went. No surprise he failed similarly spectacularly at managing Alonso. He should have been on his guard after Alonso’s behaviour the previous year at Renault. It’s interesting that Alonso behaved himself so much better last year on his return to Renault – I can’t remember a single paranoid outburst in 2008.

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