17 April 2010
Dennis: We initiated Mercedes split
Ron Dennis has confirmed that the decision to sever ties with Mercedes was a response to continued 'takeover' requests.
Former McLaren team principal Ron Dennis has revealed that it was the Woking concern's decision to sever its closest ties with engine supplier Mercedes, but insisted that the 'amicable' ending of the relationship had upside for both parties.
Speaking to Arabian Business magazine following the launch of McLaren's bespoke road-going MP4-12C sportscar, Dennis admitted that Mercedes' increasing desire to take over the team lay behind the decision, which ultimately contributed to Mercedes buying into the championship-winning Brawn operation and setting up its own 'factory' F1 effort. Prior to the split, Mercedes held a 40 per cent stake in McLaren, but that has already been reduced by nearly two-thirds.
"We initiated it, we wanted to be independent," Dennis insisted, "They continuously, over the years, wanted to have control of McLaren, and we continuously told them we did not want them to have control of McLaren. The more they wanted it, the less we wanted to give it to them.
"The influence [the engine manufacturers] control is not always productive. I have got 30-odd years of my life in this company, huge quantities of friends and people who have been through and thick and thin with me, and I made it very clear to Mercedes Benz, as did the other shareholders, that we are not for sale."
Dennis, who stepped away from the F1 team after last season's Australian GP to focus on other areas of the wider McLaren operation, insisted that the split would not harm the grand prix arm - as many speculated it would.
"Not at all, because it was completely and utterly amicable," he claimed, "This wasn't something which we weren't party to - I mean, the engine supply to Brawn in 2008 required our consent. At the end of the day, we were a fully integrated partner of Mercedes Benz, and we still are. We are fiercely competitive on circuit but, off circuit, we are still firm friends.
"I wouldn't call it a sweetheart deal, but it was a win-win situation. They got exactly what they wanted - a grand prix team they had complete control over - and we had continuous engine supply and the ability to promote our product and build the McLaren brand. It was just a win-win situation. In the end, obviously, when we all realised this was going to happen, it was all very logical."
Dennis also admitted that making the break from racing had been good for him personally.
"When you are in F1, boy is it competitive," he revealed, "Everything is coming at you - it is just like being in a constant hailstorm, from the media, from the sponsors. Everyone is coming at you and, even in success, you have a fair amount of aggravation. So you get scarred and you get a leathery skin, you become completely protective - protective of your personality - and therefore you become quite sad, because you are not you. You are constantly on your guard. You are constantly expecting to be door-stepped and to have a microphone shoved in your mouth. When you step away from that, you actually find you relax and chill a bit and you become a nicer person."
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