Ron Dennis retakes control of McLaren: What next for Whitmarsh?
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Jan 2014   |  7:06 pm GMT  |  472 comments

The future of McLaren’s team principal Martin Whitmarsh is in question tonight after former team boss Ron Dennis retook control of the company as CEO, promising changes to make the team win again.

In a statement issued by the team this evening Dennis said that he would conduct a thorough review of track activity, after McLaren last year registered its worst performance since 1980 with not a single podium finish.

At the end of last year Dennis and Whitmarsh were engaged in a struggle for power, but a shift in shareholder sentiment seems to have swung things back Dennis’ way.

The news follows the transfer of responsibility for Mansour Ojjeh’s shares and his seat on the board to his younger brother in recent days. Mansour has been ill with cancer.

At the end of last year it appeared that the majority shareholder the Bahraini investment vehicle Mumtalakat, sided with Whitmarsh as did Ojjeh, but Dennis has clearly engineered a change in sentiment.

The question will now be, who will Dennis hire to replace Whitmarsh, given that he is unlikely to want to run the team himself on a day to day basis? One candidate currently sitting on the sidelines is Ross Brawn. The Englishman has moved on from Mercedes and he has good connections with Honda, McLaren’s engine partner from 2015 onwards.

The news makes it unlikely that there will be a place for Fernando Alonso at the team, as had been mooted last year. He and Dennis fell out spectacularly in 2007.

Dennis said in the statement tonight, “My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance.

“Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimising every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalise on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.”

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Never mind Whitmarsh… what about Sam Michael? Why would McLaren want to hire a guy who has questionably achieved very little at Williams and has no real track record?


Thanks , I have recently been searching for information about this subject for a while and yours is the best I’ve found out till now.

However, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the supply?


James, I forgot to add this: your fellow BBC colleague Eddie Jordan believes McLaren’s decision to go into the production car market has denuded their Formula 1 effort and that because they are not concentrating fully on F1 the design department of the F1 team is suffering, as are the results. In other words, McLaren are spreading themselves too thinly, while all the other teams excluding Ferrari just exist to race in F1. Fair point James? Possibly. Seems a weird coincidence that since Macca developed their road cars from 2009 there has been no WDC on constructors championship. Good old EJ may have a valid point. Agree?


I don’t think the race design engineers have anything to do with the road car side so not spreading themselves too thin

Remember they built the fastest car in 2012..


That’s true James, just like 2005 they had a very fast car yet squandered both championships! Again………



Not least by not pitting Raikkonen when he flat spotted his tyre – kaboom!


James, it’s my personal opinion that McLaren lacks vision and direction in the management side but also the design department, certainly compared to Red Bull. Let’s see if the Macca brigade can turn it around 2014. I could not understand why last year McLaren didn’t ditch its 2013 car which was a complete lemon, and either replace with it the old 2012 car – which was a first class chassis with good downforce and excellent aero balance – and or do what Macca did in mid 2004 and replace a dreadful car with a much improved chassis. I think Martin Whitmarsh has to take some of the blame for the 2013 disaster; he chose to persist with the 2013 lemon when the imperical evidence – ie the dismal on track performance – was clear to see. Not reverting to the old 2012 car after Malaysia or Bahrain was a strategic mistake that ultimately consigned Macca to 2013 failure. Failure is a harsh word, but it applies to the 2013 McLaren. However with Eric Boullier very likely to come into the fold, and Ron Dennis guiding the team with his shrewd overview perhaps McLaren can climb back to pre-eminence. Fingers crossed!


I think you hit the right spot – the technical department is where change needs to be made to move forward.

Will be interesting to see what reshuffles take place. Of course the existing team developed the 2014 car, so if it flies in early running, what will they do then?


Thanks James for your reply! Love your website, your opinions on the state of F1 are always spot on! Yes, I think we both agree that Macca are lacking vision and direction in the design department. That’s what Adrian Newey brings to Red Bull, a sense of clarity in the design department and how to implement it. Speaking of Adrian, do you agree with me James that after the initial honeymoon period of 1998-99, McLaren never truly got the best out of Adrian and his genius for designing state of the art F1 cars? I know that sounds a weird statement, but I always felt Adrian felt a bit stifled at Macca, and the fact that that they never won a constructors or drivers championship from 2000-2005 seems a massive waste of his design genius. I know they won 10 races in 2005, and yet combination of the sheer brilliance of Fernando and Renault’s reliability, consistency and driveability kept Kimi and Macca out of both world championships in 2005. I always feel that McLaren have a slightly nervy, paranoid, edgy tenseness about the way they operate and that it permeates through all aspects of the team, including the design department. Perhaps that is why Adrian left Macca to jump ship for at the time was the mid grid mediocrity of Red Bull in that the McLaren operating environment wasn’t the hands on, muck in, all boys together approach that he was used to at Williams and has subsequently now developed at Red Bull. As well as lacking clarity of thought in the design department, I feel McLaren’s operating efficiency isn’t as good as Red Bull or even the likes of Lotus or even Sauber surprisingly. Any thoughts James?

PS, James, I was watching some vintage F1 on Youtube/BBC F1 the other day, and actually in your commentary on the 2005 Hungarian grand prix you commented on McLaren’s lack of operating efficiency when JP Monty broke down while leading the race: “There’s always a but with McLaren” and that was nearly 10 years ago!


The record books bear that out, about Newey, yes


Certainly Mclaren has been out of the frame for a period of time and this year was the final grasp with cero podiums, but as all companies, results aren´t the work of one single person, it´s the sum of the work of all employees with a leader making final decisions and that´s where Withmarsh responsability lies and it seems the board has made a decision over the running of the company. Don´t think Dennis will run it itself, nor Brwn will go there. For those who have been critical with Button, even if he´s not my favorite he is a World Champion, who won competing with one of F1´s toughest generations.

Tornillo Amarillo

Maybe Dennis has already lost his powers for the 2014 season, he is older but not wiser now, he did not “domesticate” HAMILTON last year to stay in McLaren, and maybe he will have problems to replace a not even near up to expectations M.Whitmarsh.

So far, Magnum is OK as a driver and a good decision, but the team still have many problems, including BUTTON in there and an unimaginable lack of title sponsor. It’s seems 2014 is already lost for McLaren.

So, let’s better talk about Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari instead!

RAIKONNEN is the candidate for the 2014 Championship IMO, …I said it here first in JAONF1! What do you think?!!


At this very early point Kimi definitely has to be a candidate, but that’s provisional on Ferrari getting their act together and producing a good car for him (and Alonso).


Welcome back Ron Dennis. McLaren F1 team will be a harder competitor under his control. It will be interesting to see if he and Ross Brawn can come to an agreement, personally I hope they can.

On the driver front Ron Dennis likes at least one of the very fastest guys of the day in his cars – Prost, Senna, Hakkinen, Raikkonen, Hamilton etc. I remember wonderful TV footage of him trying to tempt a young Schumacher after he lost Senna to Williams. By the end of this season the team might already have another one in Kevin Magnussen, he looks like he might be the real deal to me.

Good luck to McLaren and Williams – what with the new regulations and now the possibility of some Ronspeak I can’t wait for the season to begin. Let’s hope Bernie is at liberty to enjoy it too!


I predict & comment as follows;

No chance Ross will want to take orders from Ron – the two are diametrically opposed in every way.

Alonso to McLaren in 2015 – no chance !(The Ron comment broadcast live on TV in 2007 that “we were racing against Fernando” still ringing in his ears.

Jenson’s last season at McLaren ? – probably – he won’t get away with publicly “whinging” (as Ron called it) about the car as he did in the Whitmarsh era.

Maranello – Woking Cold War back on

McLaren back to winning ways towards end 2014 and will be strong and title contenders in 2015 – due to Ron / Honda factors

Welcome back Ronspeak – it will be fun


Personally I can’t wait!

MW has been slowly destroying the team, this shows through the amount of staff that have been leaving over the period of his tenure.

Ron will bring experience and discipline back to the team, and oh, let the mind games begin.

Mclaren will be back now, maybe not this season, but 2015 they’ll be back at the front again!

Adrian Newey Jnr

Whilst I believe El Ron’s return is a positive to the company, I think they have a few more years in the wilderness ahead of them. Firstly, 2014 will be the final year as a Mercedes customer team. No doubt the Mercedes lawyers will be carefully reviewing the supply agreement looking at exactly what spec engine they need to deliver. The engines might be the same, but the tune might be different (eg Renault’s RB blown floor tune). Secondly, no one has any proof that Honda’s return after a long break will be of any benefit. Witness Cosworth’s recent efforts. Differnt budgets perhaps, but Cosworth produced the most dominant engine ever. Lastly, F1’s current era is dominated by aero. What has changed in the McLaren aero department that will deliver them a Newey beater?


Lewis come back for 2016 me thinks….


This is amazing.

I can’t believe this guy is brave enough to walk out on the street without a disguise after the spygate affair.

A couple of years ago we started seeing him in the pits and now he steps up to regain control of the team.

I *honestly* don’t want to start a flame but I say shame on Macca for allowing it. Everybody is entitled to a second chance in their lives but his 2nd chance didn’t have to be in F1, right?

Watch out for your wallets guys, Ron is back!


Does Davy Ryan comeback????


James any word on Mclaren’s main sponsor for this season? While I know Honda will pump in cash for it when they arrive that’s still a year away.


I might be wrong, but I have a sneaky suspicion that some time last year they had all but wrapped up a new title sponsor (hence the announcement) and then somehow since then it’s fallen apart.

It’s entirely possible that the lack of results in 2013 scared them off, but frankly if they’re that short sighted then maybe McLaren would be better off without them in the long run anyway.

Again, just speculation.


Ross Brawn is going to have one superior CV…


Why can’t Ron Dennis and Whitmarsh work together as they used to? It did bring them the 2008 Driver’s Championship.

Does that mean McLaren’s 2014 car is already a write off? I hope not. They must have learned from their 2013 car.

Hopefully it is all a storm in a teacup …


McLaren should replace Button with Kobi. That will bring them some respect back…


Are you serious ?? Kobi – Respect ??

You must live on Mars ……


I’m just shaking my head in disbelief Goob.

McLaren have had one terrible year due to one bad decision – it was only one year earlier that they had one of the fastest cars. You could argue that they haven’t won a championship in a few years, but then neither have Ferrari or anyone else and I don’t see too many calling them a laughing stock. McLaren will either fight back or they won’t, but putting Kobi in the car is not going to get them instant respect; on the contrary if things didn’t improve they’d be blasted for seemingly making another bad decision.

In what way are Button and Vettel not legitimate WDCs? Yes they had the fastest cars in their respective championship years, but so did many other champions so what’s the difference? You blame the regulations, but the thing about regulations is that they’re the same for everyone, so why did everyone else not benefit? The answer is that they simply didn’t do as good a job as the winners – that’s it. If we put you in the fastest F1 car could you win a WDC? I doubt it.

And Charlie. He’s the race director. I’m sure he has an opinion about what he’d like F1 to be and I’m sure he has some level of involvement behind the scenes, but his primary job is to direct races. Not to belittle him, but he basically just presses a button when everyone’s ready to start and then calls whether or not to send out a safety car when things go pear shaped so I fail to see how replacing him would change a damn thing.

Laughing stock and shallow – these are two attributes I’d be careful about who I applied them to…but you might see one such individual in a mirror.


I do like Kobi and would love to see him racing again, but what does he have to do with McLaren and respect?


They are a laughing stock right now…

The disaster that is McLaren now, was predicted by most people… Button is not a real WDC – (Vettel isn’t legit either)… these are people who benefited from poor regulations in the design of cars.

I believe F1 won’t improve until Whiting is eliminated from F1… his thinking is so shallow.


ron dennis has always ran mclaren, he never left. he has always made the major decisions and left the minor ones to whitmarsh. the only difference was that rons name wasn’t on the official documents because ecclestone and mosley wanted him out. now that ecclestone is wounded, dennis is reasserting himself.


I’m rather neautral on Whitmarsh but surely last season was a one off? Whitmarsh as boss:

2009 – bad car due to massive title push in previous year.

2010 – reasonably competitive

2011 – reasonably competitive

2012 – very competitive but mid year drop off.

2013 – bad

Surely 2013 was no worse than the debacle of the unraced MP4/18/19 (??) of 2003/2004? That was a terrible year and Dennis oversaw all that. Plus under the Dennis regime they have one just 1 drivers title since 1999 – not exactly far above the Whitmarsh period.

Is Mclaren’s management structure simply too complicated now?

Lack of singular Newey style leadership?

Are they distracted by the wider Mclaren group businesses?

Was the 2003/4 disaster a result of moving to the MTC?

Any thoughts?


I would hardly call 2003/4 a disaster, Kimi lost the title by a point in 03 and IIRC they actually used the 02 car for a while too. The 04 car was too complicated and unreliable, there have been rumours around for ages now that a lot of features on the RB5 – were ones that Newey tried to get on the 04 Mclaren or couldn’t get to work properly, particularly the compact packaging of the rear end components and body work.

In both these years (and especially 05) Mclaren was let down by the unreliability of their Mercedes engines. Indeed engine failures were far more common 10 years ago but I remember Kimi retiring from the lead of races a lot!

Regardless it is plain to see that despite having excellent designers, great drivers, winning many races and having fast cars in the last 14 years they have only won 1 drivers WC and 1 disallowed constructors WC. Things have not improved since Dennis departure so its time for change.

I’m starting to believe some of the conspiracies actually, I can imagine Dennis not being the type to willingly relinquish control and suspect he may have still had a hold of the strings from upstairs. How “spygate” was dealt with was very cloak and dagger and it is funny that with Mosley gone, Bernie in the dock and now (I’m told) 5 years to the day after Dennis officially stepped aside, he takes control again.


The stats say keep Hamilton boot out Whitmarsh and Button.


No 2003/4 “Disaster” as you out it was more a failure of the mercedes engine. If you recall 2003 Raikkonen was runner up to MS by only a point or 2. ! Not a disaster by any stretch and had that engine held same in2005 – Kimi would be a triple Wc !

2004 maybe a little the car was not great and the engine was still unreliable but even then its not like 2013!


“The news makes it unlikely that there will be a place for Fernando Alonso at the team, as had been mooted last year. He and Dennis fell out spectacularly in 2007.”

Does that mean, Kimi will be driving for them in 2015? 😛

One would wish so 🙂


You mean after he Ferrari pays him to leave again?

Anything’s possible 😉


NO!! 😛 After he wins the championship this year, he is gonna take the Number 1 with him to McLaren because he wakes up one day thinking, “hmmm I have driven cars with all the great engine manufacturers so far except for Honda and BMW”.

“Since I am becoming an expert in “Come-Backs” these days I might as well see what Ron’s got to say about Honda!” 😛


I get so amused by the anti-Button sentiments on here…

In 2009 Jenson won 6 races, four in a row… When did Lewis achieve that? Lewis is a spoilt, over hyped kid that has not radically developed his driving from Kart racing.

Rosberg blew him away in 2013 against all predictions.

Watchin Jenson against Lewis is like watch Prost against Mansell. Wake up people… Lewis lacks maturity and self control… if Button had enjoyed a car like Vettel, it would be him breaking all records.


Rosberg blew him away in 2013..

In what way did NR blow away LH – please explain/justify that remark (if you can).


Nico won Monaco and British GP, despite all the LH fans claims that he would dominate Nico.


For the latter victory, running in ‘best of the rest’ position to pick up the pieces of Lewis’ tyre blowout, then Vettel’s engine failure, hardly counts as ‘blowing anyone away’.


So, based on your logic, Nico actually outperformed not only Lewis, but Kimi and Mark as well – after all he won more races than them too. You might even argue, using your logic, that he out outperformed Nando as well- he equalled his race win tally and out qualified him. So, according to you, Nico actually came second in the WDC. The only snag (with your strange logic) is he didn’t, he came sixth.


In 2009, Jenson had a car that was a second a lap faster than anyone else, when has Lewis had that? Lewis is a the only driver ever to win a race in every season he has been on the grid, Throughout some pretty huge regulation changes over his six seasons on the grid. Id say that pretty radical development over the years considering how F1 rules are radically different to 2007, both in technical and sporting aspects. At no point in 2013 was Lewis blown away, it was just tighter than predicted and as far as I remember, Lewis scored more points. Jenson is not in the same league as Alain Prost, so it’s silly to compare the two. Whereas Jenson drives the car underneath him to its best result, Alain Prost would use any advantage he could to win races and championships. Lewis is a lot like Mansell though as both want to put on a show and push like crazy. I don’t see why lacking maturity and self control is a bad thing. Maturity and Self Control are generally synonyms for boring, something you could never accuse Hamilton of being. Aggressive, precise, passionate, determined, improvisational. These are the qualities of an exciting racing driver. Not self control! And if Lewis was in a red bull with a team mate as placid as Webber, I’d be surprised if he didn’t win every race at a canter aswell!

For someone who finds such hilarity in Anti Button sentiment, it’s ironic you make such a laughable attempt to support him. You would be better pointing out that Jenson is only seen as a second rate driver because Mclaren have a rich legacy of some of the greatest drivers of all time, but because he isn’t a maverick like Some of his predecessors, he gets put down. We are in a golden age of drivers at the moment, and Mclaren would be foolish to ditch someone who is such a seasoned performer, unless it was for Vettel and Alonso double act!!!


Lewis Hamilton had a title-winning capable car in his rookie year in Formula one. Something almost unique in recent history. He didn’t serve an apprenticeship with a back of the grid team like all other drivers do. This hugely distorts his level of achievements and leads to the rose-tinted view his fans [mod] seem to have. JB had to endure years of uncompetitve cars and at least managed a win despite that. Lewis has thrown away countless wins by stupid errors. If he spent less time with his rapper mates and absurd celebrity girlfriend, and tweeting his teams set up details to the world. A fast and talented driver but one that allowed fame to obscure his talent. The way he repeatedly tries to associate himself with Ayrton Senna shows breath taking arrogance and defies logic. Perhaps he should actually apply himself like AS did and then he might actually achieve much more.
Don’t blame JB for Mclarens worst run of car designs in their history. Even Jackie Stewart thinks Button has a similar talent to Prost…he just wasn’t gifted with as many opportunites as others.


Lewis Hamilton had a title-winning capable car in his rookie year….

To hold that against Lewis seems a bit odd. Looking at it another way, Ron Dennis (a man who knows a thing or two about top drivers)selected Lewis to drive one of his top cars during his rookie year. Remember, he could have selected pretty much any driver he wanted and yet he chose Lewis. Why do you think that might have been?


Good to see Ron back, and Max Mosely and Bernie gone… maybe F1 can refocus on racing, and get away from the bore fest it has become.


It would be better if we had sensible fans instead of people wanting their favoured driver to win everything just because he deserves it.

Long may the bore fest continue…


Whitmarsh, Button amd Sam are walking disasters… any team in F1 would be wise to avoid them.

Ron needs to get another Hamilton and

Newey… a real racer and engineer.

Whitmarsh love of Button was the downfall of McLaren.


Button scored Mclaren several victories and a large amount of points. I don’t see how you can say that. Button is a solid support driver. Their screw-up was losing Hamilton and picking Perez as a replacement.


Button also turned McLaren into a laughing stock in one year… that is a record.

He is a ball and chain at best.


Really ? Which year was that? 2013?

It’s Jenson’s fault that they developed a crap car?

What about Lewis in 2008/9 … 09 car was a disaster and yet Hamilton helped develop it. Work that one out.


You’re delusional if you think Button is the cause of their poor 2013 season. Mclaren is a team, not a driver. If Button designed and built the MP4-28 I might agree with you.

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