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On This Day: 16th January 2009 - Ron Dennis steps back from McLaren // The team boss moves away from day to day Formula One

Published by Christine

Busy launching their brand new car for the 2009 season, McLaren found themselves with something else to announce. Team principal Ron Dennis was to step down from his role, handing it over to his second-in-command Martin Whitmarsh.

The possibility of a change of leadership with McLaren had been on the cards for a long time, with the first speculation about Ron Dennis giving up the team principal role beginning when the espionage scandal occurred in 2008. Ron was determined to prove the team could pull themselves above the damage to their reputations, and presumably by the start of 2009, he believed they had done so.

At the time, Ron was keen to push the idea that this change in the management levels of the team was firstly his idea, and secondly, a really good one.

I stress nothing to get too excited about but it is absolutely time for Martin to take over as team principal. As from March 1 he will adopt that responsibility. I will still go to races, not all of them, because I am passionate.

Don't see it as some sort of retirement, I want to work harder in other areas and having to plan those tasks around the GP calendar is disruptive to the process. It is a job that Martin will embrace and enjoy.

- Ron Dennis

Whitmarsh seemed like a sensible choice, he had been just as eloquent as Ron Dennis, if not more so, and was taking a more active role as Ron moved towards his so-called retirement. It seemed only natural that he would step up once the opportunity arrived, and for his part he tried to make it clear that he hadn't been pushing for the promotion.

I was keen for Ron to dictate the time frame for it so I never pushed him, nor have I wanted any external influence in that regard. It's very much Ron's timing and about how he takes his life forward.

If I was stepping into this team from outside the business, you could predict some dramatic changes, but I've had a certain amount of influence so far and if that influence is slightly extended this year then I am very happy about that.

- Martin Whitmarsh

Martin Whitmarsh ponders during the Abu Dhabi GP weekend
Martin Whitmarsh ponders during the Abu Dhabi GP weekendCredit: mclaren.com

There were some tricky situations for Martin to navigate, including but not limited to the "Hamilton lying to the stewards" issue in Australia. It's not something I would want to deal with in my first few months as the boss, but once the problems settled down, McLaren began to change quite considerably.

We started to see a more fun side to the team, with amusing promotional videos and ad campaigns, and a more open atmosphere in the paddock. With the added presence of Jenson Button in the team, they appear to be a much happier bunch.

Meanwhile, Ron Dennis has been concentrating his efforts on the buy-back from Mercedes, and building a new McLaren roadcar. The sportscar side of the business also recently announced they are to build GT3 racing cars in time for the 2012 season. There's lots to keep Ron busy, but he still makes time to appear in the F1 paddock now and again.