Dennis back in charge to revive McLaren F1 team
LONDON (AP) — Ron Dennis regained control of McLaren’s Formula One team on Thursday, returning as chief executive in a bid to revive the team’s flagging fortunes.
McLaren’s statement on Thursday made no mention of team principal Martin Whitmarsh, creating uncertainty about his future after failing to deliver any titles during his five years.
Whitmarsh succeeded Dennis, who stepped aside from his involvement with the F1 side of the business in 2009 after 27 years as team principal amid the fallout from a lying scandal.
Stripped of his executive authority of the main racing business, Dennis was left with responsibility for building a range of commercial sports cars, remaining chief executive until 2012 before becoming chairman.
Now, while also retaining the chairman’s role, Dennis is back as CEO in charge of the F1 outfit he led to 10 drivers’ championships, the last produced by Lewis Hamilton in 2008, and seven constructors’ championships.
McLaren endured another miserable season in 2013, finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship, with Jenson Button ninth in the drivers’ standings, and Sergio Perez in 11th place.
Now Dennis is tasked with making the team competitive again, with plans to implement a new structure at McLaren from February.
“My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance,” Dennis said. “Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimizing every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalize on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.”
Dennis first became involved in F1 at 18 in 1966, working alongside driver Jochen Rindt at the Cooper team. After stints at Brabham and projects in Formula Two and Three, he returned to F1 in 1981 with McLaren and assumed full control of the company.
“I am excited by the prospect of returning to the role of group chief executive officer and working with my many colleagues and fellow shareholders to fulfill our objective — which is to win at whatever we do,” he said.
The change at the top of McLaren comes less than two weeks before pre-testing begins in Jerez, Spain. The championship begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 16.
If Whitmarsh left McLaren, one potential replacement as team principal is Ross Brawn, who stepped down from that role at Mercedes at the end of last year.