Dennis comes out of the shadows fighting
Dennis comes out of the shadows fighting
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Jan 2010   |  1:31 pm GMT  |  102 comments

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.

Picture 62
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..

Featured Video
Sign up for Jenson’s Triathlon today!
Featured News in mclaren
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

The ‘mericans have a saying in racin’ “if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t trying”


Regardless of everything that has been said, I still think it is sad that Ron Dennis has left FI and I think FI is much poorer for it.

Good luck to him.


I’m indifferent to prises and honors by the queen and i don’t think they are to bother with but one thing i have to say is that i can’t believe this man is not a man of principle. I was surprised as hell when some people lately compared him to Briatore. They are nothing alike. One only cares for himself and the other only for the good of his team. I’ve never seen a more dedicated man than him. His blood is Mclaren and even now that he stepped down his doing everything to built a secure future for that team through the auto department.

Bernie Ecclestone himself admitted in a few interviews that Ron is a model of a man who does things for the good of his team and the sport while admitting that himself is not even slightly as a good of a man as Ron is, because he only cares about his own gain. Actually he said it sometimes in a way that he was partially annoyed from Ron’s hevy principles.

I guess that was what Max hated too.

I don’t know if it where junior members or not and who exactly where responsible about the stolen Ferrari data but what i do know is that Mclaren got a hammer on the head as a confirmation of hypocrisy.

And i can’t see what the liegate had to do with Ron. The guy had already stepped down.He just sacrificed himself a little more hopping to help as a bait for the team to escape the teeth of a vindictive animal.

Not to mention that the whole thing was blown out of proportion probably because of Hamilton’s popularity among people since he has many who like him and hate him as much. Drivers lie all the time in our faces and no one gives a shit but suddenly all were shocked by a lie, that it really wasn’t for much? It’s not like the fate of the world championship was depending on it and the situation was so strange that someone could think that by lying he gets justice since that position was his if the FIA and the Mclaren pitcrew didn’t screw things up. It wasn’t a big crime at all and the press made it seem like he burned Rome.


Wake up, you dopes! You’re bickering over who you’d rather be grovelling in front of calling him “Sir”. Is forelock tugging in your genes? Honourifics dispensed at the monarch’s pleasure are arbitrary, meaningless. It’d be more impressive if the monarch diluted her own holdings to give something concrete to a worthy. Or established a trust to gift them, like Alfred Nobel. But Nobel was a self-made man, not reliant on an inbred inheritance.


Someone has been known to run F1 in a prison style fashion, get in his bad books and youre in jail and keys thrown away forever, we have lost many characters in the sport.

Everyone makes mistakes and the world has seen the need for amnesty, we have had people like Mandela, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama etc. Today they live alongside people they have forgiven.

If someone have said they are sorry, there is no reason to go ahead and destroy them. I still think Ron and Flavio have contributed more to the sport and they are just the missing link.

F1 is now like a place where people are waiting inline in a death row waiting to be executed with a gun.


It would have taken one phone call for Ron to avoid Spygate. When he went to the lengths of installing email-filters to stop emails from Stepney, he didn’t think to give Jean Todt or Max a phone call?

Ron tried to be clever. He liked the idea of a renegade employee at Ferrari and that narcissism blew up spectacularly in his face.

A little bit more of the sportsmanship he so often talked about could have saved a lot of money and damage to the sport.


Ron DID call Max as soon as Alonso tried to blackmail him with this knowledge. He just didn’t believe he had traitors in his beloved company, which are junior members (in management) from Ron’s perspective.


By the time Alonso threatened to shop McLaren, it was too late. The damage was done.

However when Ron ordered email-filters be configured to stop inbound communication from Stepney the dodgy-dossier had yet to be stolen from Ferrari and delivered to Coughlin.

At that point (by virtue of installing a filter to prevent it) it is clear Ron knew what was happening was not right. Rather than do something proactive about it (approach Ferrari, or at the very minimum, the FIA) he tried to cover his eyes while leaving Stepney in-place, and festering, at Ferrari.

Hind-sight is 20/20 but my goodness but as far as dodgy decisions go, that must rank as one of Dennis’ greatest. And we STILL don’t know what role he played in liegate either.


Some people will hate Ron no matter what the facts are, end of ❗


here here – you shouldn’t be awarded an award/honour for cheating!


Does F1 have its own lifetime achievement award, and could it be revoked if further stories floated to the surface?

I would love to read Ron’s own account of the past few decades. I suspect there is, and was, a lot more going on in the background than we will ever know.

Perhaps Flavio could start a top level racing series where team orders and copying rival technology is allowed, amongst other things.


No F1 does not have a lifetime achievement award, but it’s a good idea. Problem is there are so many people who would deserve to be recipients


I still wonder who blew the whistle on Max Mosley’s extracurricular activities.

I would definitely put my bet on Ron.

If only the nazi scandal came out a year earlier, McLaren would have been saved from this [mod] treatment.


I bet you Ron has NOTHING to do with that!!


Frank Williams a Knight and Ron Denis not, Ron has achieved more in F1 than Williams so how is this fair ❓ 😕

In ant case all this OBE’s etc is a load of rubbish as there are loads of decent people that never get recognised and likewise loads that receive honours that are never worthy.

The way the British system works I wouldn’t be surprised to see spanker Mosley receive a knighthood before Ron Dennis is even, if ever, mentioned.


Too right, I think the way that man Mosley treated and was allowed to be treated (which is even worse) is a disgrace and all the other players in F1 should hold their heads in shame and now look we have Todt as the boss ❗ Couldn’t make it up.


I don’t know why Ross Brawn gets more praise while the real genius is this guy here “Sir Ron Dennis”,

I’m not sure when they start calling someone Sir in the UK but his [RD’] is long overdue.


whats the big deal with the knighthoods ?

he has achived enormous things, has more money that could ever spend.. i would give a damn about a knighthood if i was in his shoes.


Ah, but that is precisely why the knighthood is so important to these high achievers. They have done everything else for themselves. You can do a lot to help a knighthood along, like charity work, but at the end of the day it’s about being recognised by your country and that is something you cannot make happen. Then there is the social cache – your wife gets to call herself Lady and so on – it’s a big deal for a certain kind of person.


shouldn’t knighthoods have gone out with Edward III ?


James, where do you see Mclaren after Mercedes drop engine support in a couple of years?
Honda-powered? Factory engines?
Just interested to see what your hunch is, I’m sure you’ve got a better idea than most 🙂


I think they have the ressources to do their own engine. Or maybe to order it from a manufacturer, exactly as they did before with TAG providing the money with Porsche building the engine. Will they do it? No one knows but this is a strong possibility I think.

The other solution would be to have a partnership with a new manufacturer, despite BMW retired last year, I think they could be a possibility (first McLaren car was BMW powered…), 2015 is far from today… world and sport will change untill that time.

Partnership with Mercedes ends in 2015, new engine regulation is set for 2013, this is not coincidence. Whatever they do, it’ll give them 2 years of knowledge and experience.

If they do their own engine for their road cars (that makes perfect sens as they want to establish the McLaren brand as a “car manufacturer” able to compete Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche…), I think it’ll be a strong indication of what the future of the F1 team might be.


At this stage, not sure. The engine formula changes in 2013 to something quite different and it would cost a lot of money to develop a competitive engine for one team. They might do one themselves and sell it to customers – like Ferrari – or they might look for another manufacturer. I’ve not fully understood their strategy on engines yet.


A – the bad press generated arguably hurt Ron’s public image, the fact that he as a person basically represents the strongest (british) team on the grid wouldn’t have helped either.

B – James is referring to the knighthood and both affairs as the ‘two things’, spygate and liegate are unrelated


I’m trying to imagine Ron Dennis as a man about town going out “to do stuff” just like his kids, but it’s just not easy…

If it’s true that he was innocent of all involvement in those scandals then why did he agree to leave?

Ted the Mechanic

Any chance of a blog outlining a brief chronological history of disputes between Ron and Mosley and why they escalated into bitter point-scoring psychological feuds?

It seems Mosley always had the upper hand and final word with his position of power.

Has any conclusive proof ever emerged of a third party perhaps tipping off or putting the News of the World up to their dominatrix-prostitute-orgy sting?


Thanks for the idea, but it’s not my kind of post that!


Yeah, that’d be a good read ad an insight into what really went on.


“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..”

I don’t understand.

A relation:

– between the Knighthood and the two affairs,


– between Spygate and Liegate?


I think James was pointing to the tarnishing of Rons name. It is not as if you could honour someone who has just been “asked” to stand down.


Thanks for the article James.

There will always be some people saying that Dennis is arrogant and things like that. Untrue, they just don’t understand this man has dedicated his life to perfection and passion for the sport and what he is doing. Same as Schumacher’s hunger for victory and beeing the best at every moment.

Made some mistakes in the past? Maybe, as every one of us. Did not achieved the results he wanted to from the end of the Honda era? Probably, but not so easy when you’ve been such successfull for such a long time, and with Mercedes which has not been as reliable as it is now. Too much attention to details? Details are what make the difference at the high level.

But just have a look and think what this man has achieved from the early days of “Project 4” to the F1 team many victories and what the whole McLaren group has become! This is an enormous success, nearly unbelievable.

Next McLaren road cards? Can be sure they’ll be great cars and Ron will place all his energy in it.

With Mercedes retiring, Ron will of course be very activ at the backoffice including some F1 strategic F1 stuff… He personnaly owns an important share of the company he’s grown up… I would not be surprised to see McLaren building his own engines for its road cars (as several english passionates did it in the past)… and even, who knows, for F1s after partnership with Mercedes ends…


Great post. :toppa:


Good to see Ron back in fighting spirit.

Great story James.

Both Ron and Ross deserve Knighthoods IMO, no question.

Ken Tyrrell should also have received one for his mega achievements with JYS. Interesting that Brawn was born from the hereditary line of Tyrrell all those years ago.

Sir Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Ken Tyrrell, Ross Brawn and Colin Chapman are all outstanding examples of great British achievement.


The issue with Ron is that he is unable to express the full extent of his passion. I would love to see him “let it rip” and speak the full extent of his thoughts. (Although maybe not mentioning Max by name is expressing contempt rather than holding back.) Because of this, I’m not sure I’d automatically purchase a Ron Dennis autobiography.

Still, I love Ron complaining of “judgmental behaviour”. Pure Ronspeak, pure “piranha club” positioning, pure “pot meet kettle” gripes.


Like him or loathe him, there is little doubt he has been a powerhouse in getting mclaren where they are today.

Reading some of the criticisms of him you would think mclaren were a 1 year flash in the pan. Unless I have a copy of the wrong record book I don’t think that’s true.

As in all walks of life it takes all sorts of different characters to make the world turn


James your honours list means nothing when they give every English player who played in the 2005 Ashes series an MBE for beating Australia. Personally have no problem with that however it meant giving one to an English player, Paul Collingwood who only played in the last test and scored 17 runs in two innings. Hardly the same as winning 6 Grand Prix in the first seven races, or a World Championship is it?


oh u really expect to revise MBE’s for every time paul plays or what?? …. its given for achievement over a long period ….


Indeed it isn’t. Harold Wilson once gave a knighthood to the bloke who supplied him with raincoats…


Says as much about Wilson as it does the ridiculous British Honours system.

On any normal scale, compared to others that have received Knighthoods Ron Dennis should have received one simply for his business achievements never mind the good he’s done for the UK with McLaren’s success in F1.


Yep, just about sums it all up, the whole system is utter bonkers and open to corruption and manipulation by those that control things.


Fighting for what?


Good post ❓ Der ❗


DIt’s such a shame that the people who make F1 the success it is ( the dedicated fans ) can never get the real facts about what happens.

I can understand, James, why you won’t expand on your suspicions.

There has always been trickery and cheating in Motorsport but it’s been taken to new heights over the last decade, but it was not Ron Dennis and McLaren who were responsible.

Everyone has strong suspicions that Schumacher was using traction control at Benneton, I believe Renault admitted to having have McLaren technical information on the premises and finally there was last years’ Crashgate.

There is at least one person who springs to mind as a common denominator here and he’s trying to get back into the sport.

As for other events, in the light of the similar Renault incident, the McLaren Spygate affair was obviously blown out of all proportion as a way of getting at Ron Dennis personally and the $100m fine was simply ridiculous.

You can’t say quite the same about the events involving the steward’s enquiry over the McLaren/Toyota incident in Australia. But if that didn’t stop Lewis collecting his gong, why should Spygate stop Ron Dennis being rewarded for his undoubted achievements ?


as much as everyone dislike what has happened to Ron. As the head of a company, whatever that company does (no matter how junior a member) it is his responsibility.



Interesting story. Which issue of ESQUIRE was the article in ?


I guess one coming out soon, as it looked like MOS had picked it up

Top Tags