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 protégé 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.”