Former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis has revealed that just over twelve months on from stepping down from a role he had held for the best part of three decades, he has already 'moved on to bigger challenges' – even if he acknowledges that F1 will always remain 'part of my life'.
Dennis rose to the helm of the Woking-based outfit in 1981, and between then and his departure in early 2009, he led the team to no fewer than ten drivers' world championship crowns, seven constructors' laurels and 137 grand prix triumphs – and employed drivers of the calibre of Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Alain Prost, the late, great Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Fallow periods were there few, with only four of the 28 full seasons during which the Englishman was in charge failing to yield a grand prix victory, and 1988 proving so spectacularly successful as to lock out the top step on the podium in 15 of the 16 races. Had Senna not tripped over the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that year, indeed, no other team would have got a look-in at all.
His place in F1 history already assured, Dennis left the scene in somewhat unfortunate and controversial circumstances, after Hamilton and respected McLaren team manager Dave Ryan were caught lying to race stewards in the wake of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
With memories of the infamous and damaging espionage row of only two years earlier still fresh in the minds of many, it was felt best that Dennis should go – and some still believe that his exit saved McLaren from an altogether heavier penalty in front of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, presided over by the 62-year-old's long-time arch-nemesis Max Mosley, with whom he had rarely seen eye-to-eye. No regrets, though, he insists.
“I was full of expectation in Australia last year that I would go and get some sort of withdrawal,” he is quoted as having said by James Allen on the former ITV-F1
commentator's online blog, “but I don't have to watch every minute of a grand prix even when I'm not there. It's part of my life and it's not gone, but I've moved on to bigger challenges.”
Dennis was speaking at the launch of McLaren's new MP4-12C road-going supercar, unveiled by the squad's current drivers and the sport's most recent two world champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. It was the MP4-12C that partially triggered the souring of relations between McLaren and Mercedes that ultimately led to the end of their ultra-successful partnership, even if the former will continue to be supplied with engines by the latter until at least 2015.
The crux of the matter is that Mercedes was unhappy with McLaren electing to design the whole car – engine included – in-house, effectively rendering any input from the Stuttgart manufacturer redundant, and pitching the MP4-12C into direct competition with its own SLS, which is currently being promoted by F1 returnee and record-breaking seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher as part of his role at Mercedes Grand Prix. It is Dennis' task as the executive chairman of McLaren Automotive to sell around 4,000 examples of the company's new £150,000-plus baby per year.