McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has been all over the media in recent weeks, the events of last year refusing to disappear. Rumours of Dennis’s potential departure from the limelight have been rife across the online and offline worlds, which all came to a head earlier in the month. The Sunday Times published an article following Marca’s the week previous, pretty much stating that Ron was standing down from McLaren and handing over to Martin Whitmarsh. Of course, this will happen eventually, but Dennis has decided to remain at the forefront of McLaren for another year. A decision that is supported by the staff at Woking and the team’s engine partner and co-owner Mercedes. But is it the correct decision?
Speaking today from Melbourne ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Dennis spoke to reporters, stating that he had thought at the beginning of 2007 that it would be his last. But the events that transpired during the season led Dennis to feel obligated to remain at the helm and see his beloved squad return to glory.
There are lots of things that people don’t really understand that happened over the last few months. I thought pretty much at the beginning of last season it would be my last season of going to races, purely because of how long I have done it.
It is a process I go through every year and for some reason it got a bit more publicity. My effort, dedication and focus is to grow McLaren as a brand. [My decision to stay on] is something that has become a much bigger issue than it really is. Ron Dennis.
It has been a tough few months for 60-year old and his team, and combined with the break-up in his marriage, I don’t think anyone could have blamed Ron for standing down. Well, okay, I can think quite a few people actually, but ultimately the man’s been through the mill a few times since last summer.
It shows dedication, as Dennis spoke of in Australia. It shows that Dennis is determined to see the team through this rough patch, something he is not too dissimilar with having coaxed the squad out of many performance slumps in the past. By staying he is also doing his successor – likely to be Whitmarsh – a huge favour. The added time will help matters concerning Stepneygate calm down, allowing Whitmarsh to fall into the bosses position without too much going on in the background (hopefully).
If McLaren are going to go on and reclaim the title, and continue winning, they need stability. While Dennis leaving the team won’t completely upset their apple cart, it could rock it around enough to let Ferrari continue their winning ways. Although the Scuderia won the 2007 titles (after Ross Brawn had left among other changes), they weren’t walking all over the competition until the competition got disqualified. Dennis remaining at the helm sends a clear message to the Woking staff and to the fans that McLaren want to win.
It could be argued that Ron has done his company a huge disservice. Many Formula One figures have come out and stated they have a distaste for the man and his team now that the saga is out in the light. Many fans feel betrayed because the whole situation happened in the first place, and then it took a few months before admittance and apology were made. They feel that Dennis has damaged the sport and maybe the reins should be handed over to Whitmarsh sooner rather than later.
I am continuing as team principal, but it is the smallest part of my job – and a part that Martin has definitely wanted to have for a while. But he will have to wait a little bit longer. I will approach it slightly differently to before. Ron Dennis.
Martin is a real talent and obviously has the backing of Dennis. Ron has stated in the past that he will be retiring from his role in the team in the near future (and it was meant to be 2007); maybe he should trust Whitmarsh more and let him sink or swim now?
It’s a tricky decision for the Briton to make, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. There are also issues with the media to deal with. If Dennis left now it would seem as though he was admitting complete blame and feels guilty about what happened. I know that ultimately Dennis is to blame, being the boss and all, but how the media spin it will surely get a small mention in the plan.
The answer has already been made; Ron Dennis is McLaren’s team boss for 2008. But what do you think the Ronster should have done? Do you think he should have stood-down, or do you support his decision to stay?