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.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT