It’s surely sub-optimal and will most likely prove regrettable. “Ronspeak” has been a paddock phenomenon for decades, yet with today’s news that Ron Dennis has relinquished his role as McLaren Chairman, the Dennis Dictionary will no longer be required.
Dennis is Mr.McLaren. Of course, Bruce McLaren laid the foundations, but it was Dennis’ vision and determination as Team Principal from 1981 to 2009 that created the modern McLaren.
I don’t need to recite his CV to you. If you’ve found this article, you’ll already be well aware of his influence on many of the sport’s greatest success stories, with plenty of controversial moments in-between. The man has been a stalwart of F1 at the centre of many of it’s most iconic moments.
As such, today’s news is difficult to swallow. After Hamilton’s maiden title success in 2008, Ron passed the mantle of Team Principal to Martin Whitmarsh, – (remember him?) – and as a result, has had more of a boardroom role since. However, with Honda entering the fray in 2015 and struggling to meet expectations at first, CEO Dennis has been thrust back into the paddock spotlight of late.
Heck, he’s done almost as many TV interviews as Eric Boullier this season!
Recently, the interviews have been much easier than those conducted in 2015, as McLaren’s form has begun to improve. They are cantering their way back towards the front of the field, to the extent that with one race remaining, Fernando Alonso lies tenth in the standings. Progress at last.
So as McLaren begin to see light at the end of the tunnel following a period of enormous instability, what does the board decide they need?
Dennis owns – and will seemingly continue to own – 25% of the company. In what has reportedly been a game of boardroom tug-of-war between Dennis, Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund at Woking, Dennis has lost out.
I really struggle to understand the timing of this decision. Dennis was elevated to a more pre-eminent role in 2014. The management restructure and Honda partnership facilitated this, and yes, results haven’t been great, but they were never going to be given that Honda were starting a year behind the competition and the team had let the talents of Paddy Lowe leave for Mercedes in 2013.
If McLaren’s owners wanted Zak Brown – the man widely tipped to replace Dennis – at the helm, then why did they not look to force the change in 2014, before the management reshuffle? They are surely now simply injecting more instability into a team already shaken by two years of turbulence.
I must be overlooking a detail. It is difficult to speculate given that, in all honesty, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors at MTC.
But at least from the outside looking in, I’m simply baffled by the decision.