Ron Dennis has emerged from the shadows into which he retreated last season after the Melbourne lie-gate scandal. And he has some strong things to say about what he considers unfair treatment at the hands of peers and particularly, without naming him, former FIA president Max Mosley. He also talks about his obsessive behaviour and his new life as a man about town in London.
The main thrust of what he has to say regarding the reasons behind his exile from F1, after 30 years of pursuing greatness, is the fact that he feels he has paid a very high price for following his beliefs,
‘[Spygate] was a minor indiscretion by junior members of the organisation that got amplified into a bigger issue,’ he said, in an interview with Esquire magazine, picked up by the Mail on Sunday. “It wasn’t the way it was portrayed. As always, with the passing of time, the truth will come out.
“The bit I don’t like is when people damage the reputation of this company for reasons that have their roots in issues that relate to how fiercely I’ve fought for what I believe to be right for Formula One and McLaren. Sometimes it’s a price you wish you didn’t have to pay, but it is.
“I can’t look at F1 without tremendous fondness, it’s given me a great life,’ he says. “But I find the judgmental behaviour frustrating.
“You write down the names of all the team principals from the past 10 years and how many have won more than five races? It’s a short list. Throw some other queries at that and you’ll realise performance requires total dedication. You pay for that dedication because people misunderstand your personality and motives. That’s the price you pay, but I sleep easy.”
He does not appear to be indicating that, at 62 years of age, he plans a return to frontline F1 action any time soon, but he is definitely active in the background, especially now that McLaren is independent again after Mercedes split away from them.
Dennis is famous for having an obsessive attention to detail and he explains some of the background reasons for that,
“I used to go to bed with the vacuum cleaner going because my mum wanted the house immaculate when she got up. That’s the ethos I grew up with, everything had to be perfect all the time. That’s why I am such a pain to live with. I don’t want chaos; my homes are my tranquillity bases.”
This last phrase is classic Dennis.
He also reflects on his painful divorce from his wife of 22 years Lisa, with whom he has three children. Apparently Dennis has bought a home in London and is enjoying life,
“I’ve changed my life and I’ve been helped back into a social circle which didn’t see me as some poor old wrinkly stood in a nightclub, but more out there enjoying life.
“My priority is still my kids, but when my kids are out doing stuff I go out and do stuff, too.”
The timing of this interview is interesting. It comes out at a time when the Queen is dishing out New Year’s honours to Britain’s achievers; Jenson Button gets an MBE and Ross Brawn the slightly more prestigious OBE. Personally I think Brawn has done enough to deserve a knighthood, winning eight F1 world championships and almost 100 Grands Prix as a technical director with three different teams, including his own. That stacks up pretty well against Sir Clive Woodward who won one Rugby World Cup.
With his even more significant achievements in the sport, Dennis was surely on target for a knighthood before the Spygate and Liegate affairs blew up so massively. There are many in F1 who feel that the two things might not be entirely unrelated..