Ron Dennis has officially revealed that he is to step down from all activities with McLaren's Formula 1 team with immediate effect, and joked that he 'doubts if Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by the decision'.

The announcement confirms speculation that Dennis was ready to relinquish all of his responsibilities in order to focus entirely on the automotive side of the McLaren Group, in an effort to secure the Woking-based outfit an easier ride when it appears before the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 29 April to face charges of breaching the International Sporting Code over the Australian Grand Prix 'lies' scandal [see separate story - click here].

Dennis and FIA President Max Mosley have had a famously prickly relationship ever since the former took over as team principal of McLaren back in 1981, in merging his Project Four company with Team McLaren Ltd. The nadir of that relationship came with the infamous espionage row of 2007, for which McLaren-Mercedes was fined a sporting record $100 million and disqualified from that year's constructors' world championship - and over which Dennis subsequently admitted he had come close to resigning.

Having finally handed over the reins of control to long-time deputy Martin Whitmarsh last month - after achieving his final goal of leading his prot?g? Lewis Hamilton to F1 title glory in 2008 - Dennis signalled his intention to take a step back from the running of the F1 operation, whilst adding that he would still be in attendance at grands prix.

Admitting to experiencing a 'strange feeling' in no longer leading the team in Melbourne, however, and having elected to skip the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang - where the latest controversy to embroil the multiple world championship-winning concern all boiled over - the 61-year-old has since had a change of heart.

"I passed the role of team principal of McLaren-Mercedes to Martin Whitmarsh on 16 January, the day of the launch of our new Formula 1 car," he reflected. "That day I was asked many times whether I would attend the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. My answer was 'yes'. I duly attended it - albeit not as the person in charge of McLaren-Mercedes. It was, I admit, a strange feeling.

"The next race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, I watched on TV in the UK - an activity I found surprisingly easy. I'd expected to be more emotional about it, after an unbroken run of attending so many grands prix for so many years.

"I admit I'm not always easy to get on with. I admit I've always fought hard for McLaren in Formula 1. I doubt if Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by my decision - but no-one asked me to do it. It was my decision.

"Equally, I was the architect of today's restructure of the McLaren Group. Again, no-one asked me to do it. It was my decision. I feel enormously enthused about the prospects for the McLaren Group and for McLaren Automotive, and have no qualms about leaving Martin to report to the board regarding matters connected with Formula 1."

The announcement means Dennis has handed full responsibility as chief executive officer of McLaren Racing to Whitmarsh, in addition to the latter's role as team principal of the squad. He will remain, however, overall chairman of the McLaren Group, which in the guise of McLaren Automotive has for more than two years been engaged in a programme to develop a range of pure McLaren sportscars that are intended to build upon the great successes of the McLaren F1 and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.

McLaren Automotive is set to become an independent company later this year and has appointed Credit Suisse as its financial advisor, with the launch date for the first model in the new range of McLaren sportscars due for 2011.

"With planned additional investment in the company of ?250 million, proposals in place for a new McLaren car production facility in the UK and the potential for up to 800 skilled jobs, McLaren Automotive's expansion will represent a significant investment in the UK automotive industry," underlined Dennis.

In another organisational change, Richard Lapthorne - chairman of Cable and Wireless plc and formerly of Morse plc and the private equity-owned fashion retailer New Look - is to be appointed non-executive chairman of the McLaren Group and a non-executive director of McLaren Automotive as of 1 June.

"This is a very exciting time to be joining the McLaren Group and to be working closely with Ron and his team on McLaren Automotive's expansion into the sportscar market," Lapthorne enthused. "It's a rare opportunity to be involved at a key stage in the development of a British sportscar company of an entirely new sort, especially one that has such a great racing pedigree and such a world-class reputation as McLaren."