Ron Dennis, Her Majesty’s ‘annus horribilis’ and time

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There’s an interesting interview over at F1.com with McLaren boss Ron Dennis. These days just about any interview with Ron Dennis is at the very least, interesting, if not downright funny. I do not think Ron intends to be funny but his patented RonSpeak is priceless…and who knew he was quite the royal family expert?

Check out the article to hear why Fernando Alonso’s sun bathing made Ron chuckle and why Dennis was so ham-fisted with Kevin Magnussen. What intrigued me most in his comments is something I’ve been saying since this time last year…McLaren’s progression will take time just like many others in F1. Ron said:

“Our chassis is a very good one – all the data bears that out. Our driver line-up is the best in the sport – the stats prove that. Our partnership with Honda is a new one – or a freshly renewed one to be precise – and it’s not remotely surprising that it should be taking a little while to gel. That’s what Formula One is like, and it always has been. When Michael Schumacher won the drivers’ world championship in 2000, it was the first such triumph achieved by Ferrari since Jody Scheckter had won the drivers’ world championship 21 years before that, in 1979. Okay, that’s an extreme example, but we all know what happened next: Ferrari won world championships in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. In other words, they climbed their mountain. Red Bull were very successful a few years ago, winning world championships in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. But, before that, from 2005 to 2009, they hadn’t been particularly triumphant, and, earlier, from 1997 to 2004, during which period the team had been known first as Stewart-Ford and then as Jaguar, they had been less successful still. So the truth is that Red Bull’s recent successes have been a long time coming. And even Mercedes-Benz, who have dominated this year and last, took a while to start winning. From 2010 to 2013 they were good but not great, and, before that, from 1999 to 2008, during which period the team had been known first as British American Racing and then as Honda, they hadn’t been at all impressive. Only in 2009, when their double-diffuser had given them a notable one-off technical advantage, had they been successful during all those barren years. So you get my drift, I think.

Formula One is a cyclical sport. Success is hard-earned. Some teams never achieve it – Sauber have been toiling away for more than 20 years without notching up even a single Grand Prix victory, for example, other than one surprise win in 2008, during which year the team had briefly become a BMW works outfit – and that’s because Formula One is extremely difficult. Please don’t misunderstand me. I have great respect for all the teams I’ve just mentioned, and I hope the people who work for those teams have great respect for McLaren and Honda too. But the reason I’ve gone to the trouble of itemising their histories is that I want to illustrate for you, without fear of contradiction, that success in Formula One takes time to achieve.

And, as I’ve said before and will doubtless have cause to say again, we’ll get there. So, to revert to the specificity of your question, I’m not going to hypothesise about what might have happened had we done things differently, because I don’t think there’s anything specifically wrong with the way we’ve done things. As usual in Formula One, it’s taking us a little time to get things right, that’s all, and I hope the entirety of my reply explains why that’s neither unusual nor surprising.”

Thats it exactly. The fact is many folks were very bitter when Red Bull were talking of leaving the sport and suggested that they come in and win everything and then complain when they’re not winning anymore? That wasn’t the case. the team struggle for years to get the magic right just as Ron alludes to above. Same for Ferrari and Mercedes.

None of this happens over night in F1 and Ron very succinctly spells that out with examples. His team will face a curve as well. The question is, how quickly can they reach the arch of that development curve and get to podiums?

I have a lot of patience for McLaren and I’m a Ferrari fan but perhaps my waiting so long for Ferrari to finally turn it around in 2000 has given me a lesson in patience. I suspect Ron and the brilliant folks at Woking will get this ship turned and will compete for podiums eventually.

I can’t lie, I loved Ron’s answer about Alonso’s sunbathing incident. He “chuckled”. I sort of had this image:

Hat Tip: F1.com

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Tom Firth

Impressive knowledge.

Ron wants a knighthood?

mini696

Surprised he hasn’t got one already.

Tom Firth

He received a CBE in 2000, but he hasn’t got a knighthood.

mini696

Excuse my Aussie ignorance, but what is the difference? Yeah I know I could google.

Tom Firth

Chivalry honours has five levels, MBE, OBE, CBE, KBE/DBE, and GBE at the very top. Now you can be awarded one of these levels, but unless are awarded a KBE/DBE (Knight or Dame of the most excellent order of the British empire) you do not receive a knighthood automatically which entitles you to be named sir or dame. You just get the letters following your name. You can however be on the Queens birthday or New Years Honours List, or the list of an outgoing prime minister and have a Knight Bachelor (kt) bestowed upon you additionally at a later… Read more »

Sakae

“Our driver line-up is the best in the sport – the stats prove that.”
Really, not another myth?

Without too much of enthusiasm, but I’ve randomly picked Ferrari’s duo for comparison, and based on Wiki, this is what I got in less than 5 min:

Alonso w Button (cumulatively)
Championships 3
Wins 47
Podiums 147

Räikkönen w Vettel (cumulatively)
Championships 5
Wins 62
Podiums 159

What is Mr. RD talking about?

mini696

But who would you want on your team?
I would pick Alonso and Button (maybe Vettel) any day.

Sakae

Of course I have a favorite driver, however I think it would be better to keep it private, because as soon as you pick one, someone else gets pushed back, fans get agitated, noses out of joint, insults start flying, and discussion suffers. Sorry about it then.

mini696

Additionally I think Ron downgrades Kimi a lot since his performance has not been champion worthy for years. Basically I think he is referring to current form, not stats.

Sakae

Current form is not entirely supporting his team either, but we aren’t silly, and we all know why things are as they are, and therefore do not make silly, bombastic statements.

mini696

I don’t understand regarding the bombastic statements. What do you mean? I think current form has been massive with Alonso and Vettel, not so much with Button though, and for sure not with Kimi.

Sakae

Well, this is not an important subject to elaborate on for pages, but while at it, take your statement, which is reasonable and allows for give and take, and compare it to what RD said, which was, at least in my opinion, contentious, if not downright false, if not bloated. To conclude, I am staying away from judging those two this year, since equipment issues masked proper calibration of their current abilities as drivers. I am not an expert, but it would be interesting analysis if we could obtain access to overlay study lets say two drivers in the same… Read more »

228929292AABBB

He’s just not accurate. For instance, the data bear out that the chassis is not that great, specifically that it’s inferior to the Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, AND Toro Rosso. It demonstrates, simultaneously, both more drag AND less downforce. (BBC Sport Formula 1). He’s doing PR, and that makes sense, I admire his commitment, but that doesn’t make anything he says accurate, and I think more than anything his interview is another in a long series of demonstrations this team, and this leader, have lost their way. I’m not so confident they’ll be back to where they were in any… Read more »