Former F1 racer John Watson believes Martin Whitmarsh is unlikely to remain at McLaren as team principal and he reckons it is only a matter of time now before he moves on or takes a new position within the company.
Whitmarsh's reign has been rumoured to be under threat for a while now, off the back of a disastrous showing in F1 2013, and following news this week that Ron Dennis has been re-appointed Group CEO by the board – replacing Whitmarsh [see separate story – HERE
], it is unclear just what will happen, although clearly it is not exactly an endorsement for the 55-year-old.
“Martin has a lot of talents as an individual, he is an exceptionally clever man, he has a different style to Ron and in fact this is not the first time that there has been an attempt to oust Martin from his position - one occurred about three years ago. But in relation to whether he might stay or go, that is an issue for Martin and the company to determine,” Watson told Sky Sports Online
when quizzed on what the future might hold for Whitmarsh.
“Because Ron Dennis is saying he is not planning on becoming the team principal, he is effectively above that within the company - he is the boss, but is not going to be de facto day-to-day team principal - it is possible that Martin Whitmarsh could continue in that role, but it probably would be unlikely.
“I think Martin may choose either to find another position within the group of companies or maybe think of taking a leave of absence or moving elsewhere.
“But that will be an issue that will be discussed by the parties involved and Martin in particular.”
Watson also added that the news of Dennis' return as Group CEO was definitely something he didn't expect.
“I think it is a shock to everybody that Ron has masterminded this return, to not specifically being the F1 team principal in the way he would have been previously, but he is now in the role within the group of companies of which the F1 is a part. He is now in charge, that is his responsibility. So in effect Martin Whitmarsh who was the team principal will no longer be the F1 team boss - Ron Dennis is now that person,” continued Watson, who drove for McLaren between 1979-1985, winning four races and finishing third in the Drivers' Championship in 1983.
“If I think back to when Ron came into F1 at the beginning of 1981 and his dreams, his aspirations, his ambitions of what he wanted this team to become and scroll forward to 2014, it is difficult to imagine what he can do in the short-term to elevate the level of performance of the McLaren team, which certainly in 2013 was its worst season in terms of results since back in 1980 - which is an awful thought, but those are the facts.
“I think what Ron will try to do is reintroduce his principal philosophy of how a F1 team is constructed and run, and a part of that may well involve changes in personnel. Certainly I would imagine changes within every level of the company from the very bottom to the very top and that would also include engineers, technicians, drivers, everybody. So it has got the potential to be a massive change in direction now that Ron has got control of the F1 team.”