Former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis has laid to rest any rumors that he would once again become a fixture on the McLaren pit wall. According according to a report on sportspromedia.com, Dennis, while attending the recent Autosport Awards, “ruled out” a return to an active role in the sport which has been the primary focus of his career since 1966, when he was a mechanic for Jochen Rindt on the Cooper team.
Dennis stepped away from direct involvement in the McLaren Formula 1 team during the 2009 season. Many believe that a behind the scenes, quid pro quo deal was brokered with FIA president Max Mosley, whereby McLaren received minimal penalties in the wake of the “Lie-gate” scandal, in return for Dennis’s withdrawal from the sport. Dennis and Mosley, reputedly, have been enemies for a number of years.
When Dennis stepped down, he turned over management of the team to Martin Whitmarsh, who had been groomed for the role for a number of years. Whitmarsh, less mercurial and autocratic than Dennis, has brought a new management style to the team. Whitmarsh, perhaps anxious to publicly put his own stamp on the team, has himself been quick to acknowledge this.
As reported on the official Formula 1 website, Whitmarsh said, “While I think everybody in this organisation is indebted to Ron for his leadership and visionary prowess, I also think it’s apparent that the team has started to acquire a slightly different style and personality over the last 12 months. Of course, there is still a huge amount of ‘Ron’ in McLaren – and that’s only natural and it’s hugely important and beneficial too – but the most important thing I want people to recognise is that the successes achieved by McLaren come from us being a team, not from any one individual.”
Last October, Max Mosley stepped down from his leadership of the FIA, and former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt was elected to replace him. Todt made his first official appearance in his new role at the 2009 season finale, in Abu Dhabi. Many observers noted that Ron Dennis was also in the paddock at that race, his first such appearance since he’d stepped down at McLaren. Most onlookers assumed that the coincidence of Mosley’s absence, and Dennis’s reappearance, was not random.
Dennis still retains a 15% ownership stake in the McLaren Group, and is the executive chairman of McLaren Automotive, which is responsible for the McLaren road car project. His personal wealth has been estimated by The Times to be in the neighborhood of 200 million pounds (US $325 million).