To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
16 Jan 2009 16:01
Ron Dennis will step down as the principal of Formula One team McLaren on March 1, making way for long-serving deputy Martin Whitmarsh.
But Dennis, one of the best-known figures in the sport, insisted he was not retiring and would remain intimately involved with the team as they attempt to defend the drivers championship won by Lewis Hamilton last year.
The surprise announcement came as McLaren unveiled their new car for the 2009 season at the team’s headquarters.
Dennis (62) has run McClaren since 1981 and helped to transform what was then an uncompetitive team into one of the leading forces in Formula One with legendary drivers Nikki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna winning multiple titles in the 1980s and 1990s.
The last decade has been a relatively lean period for the team but McLaren returned to the top when Hamilton secured their first drivers’ championship since 1999 with a dramatic final-race triumph in Brazil.
Dennis has played a central role in Hamilton’s rise to become the first non-white Formula One champion and the driver paid tribute to his mentor.
“I met him when I was 10 years old, he has had a huge impact on my life and we are very close friends,” Hamilton said while stressing that he expected Dennis to remain very involved on a day-to-day basis.
“Ron is a huge part of the team,” Hamilton added. “He has got racing in his blood so he will never leave the team.”
While Whitmarsh takes over as team principal, Dennis retains his role as executive chairperson of the McLaren Group of companies.
“It’s time for Martin to take over,” Dennis said.
“Do not think of this as a retirement, I will be working harder than ever.
“I will still be a full executive chairman.
Dennis’s announcement came after Hamilton had voiced confidence about his ability to successfully defend his title in the team’s new car, the MP4-24.
“I don’t see the fact that I am world champion will add to the pressure on my shoulders for next season,” Hamilton said.
“I’ve obviously a little bit of extra confidence and I’ve reset my goals, reset my targets back to when I started out in Formula One and that’s to be world champion.
“That’s not me sitting here saying, ‘I am world champion’, I am sitting here saying, ‘I want to be world champion’.” - Sapa-AFP
Create Account | Lost Your Password?