Hamilton exit was proof that all wasn’t right at McLaren

Dennis return is pivotal but Ron must roll back years to help team start winning races and titles regularly again

Ron Dennis’s return as CEO at Group McLaren came as a complete bolt out of the blue yesterday. Indeed, Ron’s situation within McLaren – and not just the Formula One team – had been uncertain.

The move to oust team principal Martin Whitmarsh first took place three years ago, but on that occasion it was not supported by the McLaren board.

Now however, it appears as though Martin has lost the faith of the McLaren hierarchy and Ron has won their approval to effectively become the boss of Formula One at McLaren again – albeit not becoming the team principal. 

Back in control: Ron Dennis (right) is back at the McLaren F1 team as CEO, replacing Martin Whitmarsh (left)

Back in control: Ron Dennis (right) is back at the McLaren F1 team as CEO, replacing Martin Whitmarsh (left)

 

Troubled times: Whitmarsh (right) had seen his position as boss of McLaren come under increasing pressure since 2010

Troubled times: Whitmarsh (right) had seen his position as boss of McLaren come under increasing pressure since 2010

 

When Ron gave his address to the staff at their headquarters in Woking yesterday he was given a rousing reception, so there is clearly a disappointment within the team as to how they performed last season when they failed to record a single podium finish. 

The loss of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season was a clear indication that all wasn’t well.

It is rare that a top driver volunteers to leave McLaren. Of course, Fernando Alonso did it in 2007, but that’s because he didn’t feel he was getting the terms that he had anticipated when he signed his contract. 

Will Ron roll be able to roll back the 33 years when he first walked into McLaren and was given a share of the keys to the team which went on to become such a phenomenon? 

It was McLaren, which under Ron’s guidance, really set the standard in Formula One. They raised the bar in every area of the pit-lane whether it be visually, technically or the team’s aspirations and ambitions. Ron was always seeking the very top people and offered them substantial reward for their work, whether it were drivers, engineers or technicians. 

All downhill from here: McLaren were hopeful of a strong 2013 season with 2009 world champion, Jenson Button (left) and Sergio Perez, but the team failed to score a single podium

All downhill from here: McLaren were hopeful of a strong 2013 season with 2009 world champion, Jenson Button (left) and Sergio Perez, but the team failed to score a single podium

 

In the shadows: Jenson Button finished sixth at Monaco, during a campaign where McLaren failed to register a top-three finish for the first time since 1980

In the shadows: Jenson Button finished sixth at Monaco, during a campaign where McLaren failed to register a top-three finish for the first time since 1980

 

Searching for answers: Button has failed to win the world title since joining McLaren in 2010

Searching for answers: Button has failed to win the world title since joining McLaren in 2010

 

I also remember very early on his career as a team principal when I was racing for McLaren, Ron pointed out there is no such thing as ‘bad luck’.

He made everybody understand that bad luck is an excuse. Bad luck is bad engineering, bad design, bad manufacturing, bad management, bad driving, bad assembling, that ‘bad luck’ was tangible and could be controlled. 

Upon his comeback, I don’t see Ron on the pit wall calling the shots – someone else will do that – but Ron will outline what direction the team needs to go in. 

Martin Whitmarsh might find he is better off working under Ron as he did previously – remaining as team principal but not having the authority or need to be responsible for every single decision the team is making.

Happier times: Lewis Hamilton won his only world title while at McLaren in 2008, with Dennis as team principal

Happier times: Lewis Hamilton won his only world title while at McLaren in 2008, with Dennis as team principal

 

Lew made the right call: Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes, where he won the 2013 Hungarian grand prix

Lew made the right call: Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes, where he won the 2013 Hungarian grand prix

 

Indeed, it is not impossible that Martin could continue in his current role, but one may think that he might find it awkward because he has been his own boss and he has been the team principal in recent times. 

Ross Brawn, who left his post at Mercedes last year, is said to be among the leading candidates to replace Whitmarsh if he is forced out. While Ross may not be at Mercedes any more there are contractual obligations which might obstruct him from accepting a job at McLaren, and personally, I can’t see it happening.

Ross is coming up to his 60th birthday shortly and whether he wants to get back into the maelstrom of Formula One is also up for debate.

Would he want to return to the sport? I am not sure. I don’t think it is likely, but then again I did not expect Ron to make this move yesterday either. 

Unlikely reunion: Ross Brawn helped Button win the 2009 world title while with the Brawn team but would be a shock appointment as team principal at McLaren

Unlikely reunion: Ross Brawn helped Button win the 2009 world title while with the Brawn team but would be a shock appointment as team principal at McLaren

 

Natural born winners: Brawn had a hand in all seven of Michael Schumacher's world titles while at Ferrari (above) and at Benetton in the mid-1990s

Natural born winners: Brawn had a hand in all seven of Michael Schumacher’s world titles while at Ferrari (above) and at Benetton in the mid-1990s

 

With all that said, if Ron were to announce that he has appointed Ross Brawn as team principal that would draw everybody’s breath and it would be a massive coup.

And what about Ron? Is it the right decision for him to return? If he fails, it will be a massive, massive loss of face, not only for him but the company, too. This is a pivotal moment in the history of McLaren.

They need to get back to race-winning ways, and that is not just based on last season’s difficulties. It has been a lean period for the team having not won the constructors’ championships since 1998, and last winning a drivers’ title with Hamilton in 2008.

Bolt from the blue: Fernando Alonso and Renault stole a march on McLaren to clean sweep the 2005 and 2006 titles

Five star: Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won five straight world titles between 2000 and 2004

Dominant forces: Fernando Alonso (left) and Michael Schumacher helped Renault and Ferrari respectively to steal a march on McLaren to claim world title glory at the start of the century

 

New man to beat: Sebastian Vettel has won the last four world titles while driving for Red Bull

New man to beat: Sebastian Vettel has won the last four world titles while driving for Red Bull

 

Good old days: Ayrton Senna won three world championships at McLaren, helping the Woking team dominate the late 1980s through Honda powered engines

Good old days: Ayrton Senna won three world championships at McLaren, helping the Woking team dominate the late 1980s through Honda powered engines

 

They were subjugated by Ferrari at the turn of the century, then for two years by Renault, four seasons by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull and Mercedes are now looking very strong for 2014. It is a difficult route to get back to the top, and it won’t be a walk in the park just because Ron is coming back.

It certainly won’t be like a light switch that you can turn off and on. It will be a building process, and that process in part is going to start with this new engine formula and working towards 2015 with Honda and then beyond.

Hopefully it will win world championships and have the domination that they enjoyed with the Japanese engine supplier during the hugely successful Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna era at the back end of the eighties.

 

 

 

Source : Daily Mail

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