Ron Dennis leaving McLaren? Am I wrong about Ron?

I certainly have no reason to doubt AUTOSPORT’s article on Ron Dennis leaving McLaren’s top spot when his contract expires but if I’m honest, it does leave me wondering if all those rumors of boardroom power struggles in Woking are coming to a head.

There have been articles over the last few years about the 25% ownership of Dennis, 25% ownership of Mansour Ojjeh—who’s been is concerning health of late—and 50% ownership of Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat leading to power struggles over which drivers the team will retain etc.

I am sure long-time McLaren employees could teach me a lesson on who has done the most for the team since 1980 but as a casual observer, I don’t recall Ojjeh or the Bahrain leadership being a central name and motivating force to seven world titles. That achievement has been from the team and leadership of Dennis. As I say, perhaps, as a casual observer, I am wrong and Ojjeh was really the mind trust, leadership, engineering brain and driving force of all of that success but my hunch is, that’s not the case.

As a casual observer, I also believe Ron can be a difficult character to work for. A perfectionist and one who possibly subscribes to Bernie Ecclestone’s theory on delegation and how it is the art of accepting second best. Ron, by all accounts I’ve read, seems to be slightly (understatement?) OCD and perhaps a bit awkward socially speaking. That, in my mind, is not an indictment, just a character observation.

Ron Dennis departed the helm of the F1 team when McLaren were convicted by the FIA of engaging in corporate espionage and fined $100 million. The team were staunch Mercedes partners and Ross Brawn managed to dislodge that relationship back in 2009 with Brawn GP which eventually became the Mercedes works team.

McLaren have had their share of misfortunes and setbacks, for sure, but in the end, Ron’s return to the helm and tactical partnership with Honda looks to be on the cusp of bringing the team back toward the front of the grid. It is an odd time to let boardroom egos and chest-pounding ownership struggles thwart what the team have created to date as a recovery program from the post-Spygate era and loss of Mercedes shove.

As the article points out, Dennis was said to be seeking investors to buy out his partners but perhaps that is not happening or, as McLaren is quoted as saying, it is still all just ownership jockeying and rumors of his departure are actually the seismic tremors of ownership deals being made. Maybe Ron is bowing out but it wouldn’t be in keeping with his previous comments about never stopping.

“Over many years, many decades in fact, McLaren shareholders have often entered into dialogue on the subject of potential equity movements and realignments, and Ron and Mansour have always been central to those discussions.

“That is still the case. Their recent conversations can therefore be categorised as ‘more of the same’.

“However, it would be inappropriate to reveal further details of such discussions, which are of course private and confidential.”

I don’t work for Ron and have no way of knowing what that may or may not be like but I will say, as a casual observer, I would seriously miss his presence in F1. In fact, I feel that his return to the F1 helm, he’s been rather muted in the press and talking points in the media. Something that is uniquely different from when he was leading the team pre-Spygate.

I think his competitors have found him to be irritating at times and outright hostile at others but there was a time when Ron swung a large stick in F1 and that doesn’t seem to be the case these days. Much of that could be down to McLaren’s pace and performance in the championship or it could be merely silly musings from a casual observer unaware of the reality of Ron’s footprint on the sport today.

Either way, perception is 9/10th’s of the law and if the F1 fan sees little of Dennis, then his departure may not register on the paddock Richter scale and that would be a shame because if there were one man in that paddock who I would really like to go on holiday with and ask as many questions as I could, it would be Ron Dennis. You have, in Ron, a man who has been in F1 for decades and the stories he must have would be fascinating to hear but he’s never spoken about them publicly and I would relish the opportunity to inquire.

It’s also a troubling wave of company purging that I am seeing at the moment and I think Ron, with all his foibles and quirks, is still a very relevant element in F1 regardless of his age. That may be archaic but I do not worship youth, I value experience and wisdom and Ron has that in spades.

Before I go, realize I am no McLaren apologist or Dennis sycophant, I am a Ferrari fan and you know that rivalry well. Regardless, I respect the hell out of McLaren and Ron for the fierce competition they gave us Ferrari fans for decades. I respect their incredible achievements and brilliance of the staff in Woking. I hate to see this strife and hope it doesn’t come to fruition.


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Mr. Camber, Of all the writers on F1, I think you are at the very top. I don’t recall any of the rumors, pipe dreams and f1 Bs coming out of you that hasn’t moderate avery level headed. As regards to Ojjeh, I seem to remember him getting involved with McLaren by way TAG when he was somehow involved as a sponsor that enabled Ron to go to Porsche and then sole use of the Tag Turbo Porsche engine which caused all others jaws to drop. Maybe I’m wrong, as I am a tad older now. I vividly remember watching… Read more »

Negative Camber

That’s kind of you to say. I get accused of being anti this or anti that but to be honest, I try to approach all of F1 with a neutral view and can even divorce myself from being a Ferrari fan when I need to look at something critically about them. To Ojjeh’s credit, he’s been a part of that team for a long time and I am not trying to marginalize his efforts but as the visible head of this team, Ron is the guy who put a lot of his behind on the risk chopping block and made… Read more »


I never doubted it for a minute, but I also remember Enzo. Loved the team, him not so much.


For a man who said in an interview in 1988 that he felt physical pain every time McLaren didn’t win, he must have been suffering a lot recently. However, like Sir Frank, Ron is a racer, and I don’t think that he would want to hand over the reigns if the team wasn’t back at the top.


Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Ron brought back as CEO to return McLaren to the top? When you peel back all the media spin and the ‘walk back in time memories’ what Ron has indeed done is send the team into a death spiral towards the back of the grid, the Honda deal which HE negotiated has been an unmitigated disaster which has then severely diluted the McLaren brand which is evident by the lack of primary sponsor for his entire tenor. Unfortunately Ron is very much in the same mould as Bernie, they were tremendously in… Read more »

Richard Piers

Well said.


Is that ownership split and the CEO role for Mclaren F1, or the whole McLaren empire?
If it’s the whole empire, I can’t see Ron D stepping down, ever. If it’s just McLaren F1, I can’t see him stepping down until McLaren (with or without Honda) are winning races and competing for championships again. I don’t think the concepts of ‘quitting’ or ‘defeat’ exist in the Ron-speak vocabulary.


Thanks Dave,
Interesting article, and some good comments on it too. I don’t know how connected Joe Saward is, but it does seem that the article is putting up the speculation and not substantiating anything.

Zachary Noepe

With respect for your views, the one part I don’t understand, which seems to be present often, is the idea that because someone was a huge success at one time and very valuable that means they should stick around now. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s admirable from a human sense, you’re not a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of guy I guess and that’s super good. But championship sports are, by definition, what have you done for me lately enterprises. Nostalgia is fine for Sam Posey and photo albums and lifetime achievement awards, but it… Read more »


I think you’re being a bit dismissive of Ron. He’s a serial achiever, not just McLaren F1, also a technology empire, and successful super car business (first with, now without Mercedes). He came back into McL F1 to ‘save’ them after they lost Mercedes, Vodafone and competitiveness under Martin Witmarsh. People with his drive tend to be able to replicate success. I reckon he will turn them around, afterall he has been able to persuade Honda to rejoin F1, Alonso, Button and Van Doorne to drive for him, and now Jost Capito to join Éric Boullier, Tim Goss Neil Oatley… Read more »


That series of achievement has ended years ago. If anything, it makes me think his successes were not all due to his talents. As a casual reminder, the last Constructors’ Title for McLaren was won in 1998. The one before that in 1991. In other words 2/25 (4%).

Although a good quality to have being persuasive is far removed from being successful. Talking about Honda in particular, who else were they going to partner with once decision was made to enter F1?


Hi A3, I really don’t want to become a praise singer for Ron Dennis, but I think if you look at things objectively, McLaren, lead by Ron D has been massively sucessful over a sustained period. Perhaps your view of achievement is different from mine, but your casual reminder lead me to go back over the McLaren F1 results 1998 to 2015. 1 WCC, 2 WDC, 2nd in WCC 8 times, 3rd in WCC 5 times, that’s pretty sucessful isn’t it? They’ve also set up McLaren automotive in 2010, and are making money from manufacturing road cars that rival Ferrari,… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

I dont think we’re disagreeing, we’re both saying he has been very successful. I just dont think you can afford to keep someone around in f1 forever because they were top notch sometime in the past. His return has been unsuccessful.


Thanks for keeping up the decorum Zachery, I agree that the top teams of F1 are unforgiving of a lack of success. Further down the grid, turn over of team owners and management is a bit less cut throat (I.e Williams, Sauber, and Minardi). I still think its a bit early to throw R.D off the bus, after all it took Mercedes several years (and a technology change) to become sucessful, same for Red Bull. Williams had more than a decade in the wilderness, Ferrari can’t find a way to be condistently competitive. So I’d say R.D’s second McLaren Honda… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

You are very possibly right. Things dont happen overnight and one person’s success sometimes ripens on another’s watch, cruel as that is.


“…..if there were one man in that paddock who I would really like to go on
holiday with and ask as many questions as I could, it would be Ron

Good luck getting a meaningful answer ;)