Having already made clear at the launch of McLaren-Mercedes' new MP4-24 challenger earlier this month that he will be far from taking it easy in his post-team principal life, Ron Dennis has gone on to elaborate on just what the future holds for him in 2009 and beyond.

Dennis revealed at McLaren's Woking headquarters that after 28 years at the helm, he would be passing over the reins of control to long-time deputy Martin Whitmarsh, with effect from 1 March, 28 days before the first grand prix of the new season Down Under in Melbourne.

It was a decision, he confesses, that had been taken some time previously, with the initial intention being that of standing down a year earlier, at the end of the 2007 Formula 1 campaign - but circumstances, he explained, conspired somewhat against his wishes...

"It's well known that in early 2007 I'd privately decided to pass the team principal position down to Martin at the end of that year," Dennis told the official F1 website, "but, because of some of the off-track difficulties we experienced that year, I changed my mind. I changed my mind for the simple reason that the situation had changed and it wouldn't therefore have been the right time to do it.

"After the triumphs of our 2008 season - which saw not only Lewis Hamilton being crowned world champion but also the inauguration of FOTA (the Formula One Teams' Association), in which organisation McLaren and Ferrari have been working extremely closely together - I felt that the time was right.

"I'm a shareholder in the McLaren Group and I enjoy the full support of every other McLaren Group shareholder - which is to say, Daimler, the Bahraini Mumtalakat Holding Company and my business partner and friend of many years, Mansour Ojjeh. I forewarned those shareholders of my intention to pass the team principal position down to Martin in advance of making it public.

"Martin and I will continue to work closely together, in co-operation with Mercedes-Benz and the McLaren Group's other shareholders. As such, little will change in terms of Mercedes-Benz's involvement. Mercedes-Benz is a fantastic shareholder and partner of McLaren, and has been for many years.

"We've achieved a huge amount together - three drivers' world championships and one constructors' world championship, as well as the collaboration on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and its derivatives - and we intend to build on that tally in years to come.

"Moreover, the work done by Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines last season, and over the winter in preparation for this season, has been truly phenomenal, and it's clear that every constituent department that comes together to make McLaren-Mercedes is working exceptionally well together at the moment and will continue to do so in the future.

"The re-alignment of duties and responsibilities between Martin and me was something that, with his knowledge, I'd been planning for months. I'm delighted to have been able to pass down the team principal position to Martin, because he deserves it and will do the job exceptionally well. We're good friends as well as close colleagues; as such, our roles have always dovetailed naturally and will continue to do so.

"I have enormous confidence in him and in all our staff, whether they be senior or junior. Martin and I have worked very closely together for the past 20 years, and we'll continue to work very closely together in much the same way throughout 2009 and beyond."

Insisting that he is 'not leaving anything' in that he will remain heavily involved within the team in his ongoing role as chairman and CEO of the McLaren Group, which comprises more than 1,300 employees in total, Dennis also stated that henceforth he will in fact be 'working harder than ever before' and still in regular attendance at grands prix, as F1 remains a sport he loves 'with every fibre of his being'.

"I'll still be fundamentally involved in the activities of McLaren Racing and McLaren-Mercedes," he underlined, "simply because they're both constituent parts of the McLaren Group. I'll be in Melbourne for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix and I'll attend most if not all grands prix this coming season, for two reasons.

"The first reason is that I'll have work to do at grands prix as an influential member and proponent of FOTA, and as chairman and chief executive officer of the McLaren Group. After all, it's via Formula 1 that we've built the platform on which we now intend to grow the McLaren Group further in years to come. The second reason is that I continue to love the sport of Formula 1 with every fibre of my being. That will never change.

"I firmly believe that the business model of a Formula 1 team operating as a financial entity on its own is an anachronistic one. It used to work, but it won't work in the future. For teams that are wholly owned by major car manufacturers or other multi-billion-dollar corporations, an unsupported business model can still work - as long as that major car manufacturer or other multi-billion-dollar corporation wishes to continue to finance its Formula 1 team, that is.

"The McLaren Group has a number of brilliant shareholders, and we also have some superb partners. Together, we've achieved a huge amount, and we couldn't have achieved what we've achieved without their co-operation and support. Equally, I'm glad to say that they're all delighted with our recent successes and the return on their investment that those recent successes have delivered. Working together, we're confident that those partnerships will continue to be just as successful in 2009 and beyond.

"But - and this is a big 'but' - I firmly believe, as I've said, that the successful Formula 1 teams of the future will be sustained and supported by entities other than merely their shareholders and other partners, and that's why McLaren Automotive is currently investigating the option of launching a high-performance production car.

"After March 1, I'll devote a greater proportion of my time to those investigations, together with the management of McLaren Automotive, in order that the McLaren Group will remain a sound, robust and profitable business and continue to grow from strength-to-strength in years to come. So, far from passing down McLaren's 'crown jewel' to Martin, I'm planning to engage more-and-more in areas of the McLaren Group's business that will sustain that 'crown jewel' into the future."

Dennis was also keen to underline the importance of the work undertaken by FOTA, to which he added he similarly hopes to be able to devote more time now. He is adamant that both the sport and the teams that are its very lifeblood are well-equipped to cope with the current global economic downturn that has shaken F1 to its roots - and insisted that in striving for survival, the rule-makers must not sacrifice the very essence of what has made grand prix racing the hugely popular and successful, multi-billion dollar industry it is today.

"A friend of mine once told me that I'm very unusual in that I have the ability to do things which are rarely compatible in human behaviour patterns - pay great attention to detail whilst also seeing the bigger picture," the 61-year-old mused. "Without being immodest, I believe I can do those two things.

"That being the case, I've been able to focus on devising ways via which Formula 1 can continue to thrive for many years, even though I was working as a hands-on team principal, chief executive officer and chairman at the same time. Now, though, under the umbrella of FOTA, working alongside my colleague Luca di Montezemolo (FOTA Chairman and Ferrari President), I intend to devote more time to these issues.

"The result of our co-operation, supported by all the other teams, has already been profound. The cost-cutting measures that FOTA put forward were agreed by (FIA President) Max Mosley, when we met him in Monte Carlo on December 10, and were taken further when FOTA met again, this time without Max, in London on January 8. As such, FOTA has already achieved great things, and it will achieve even greater things in the weeks, months and years to come.

"That shouldn't be surprising, though. You should remember that the FOTA membership consists of a number of Formula 1 teams - companies, many of which are exceptionally impressive and successful organisations. In good financial times and bad, such companies are well-equipped to power through, if I may coin that phrase.

"We're not complacent; we're not reluctant to embrace radical change; we're not hidebound by on-track rivalries. No, working together for the good of the future of Formula 1, we'll continue to devise powerful strategies and innovations intended to improve our sport so as to make it more affordable, more environmentally-friendly and more appealing to spectators and TV viewers.

"Inevitably, cost-cutting will impact on certain activities that cost money - it would be trite to suggest otherwise - but, together with the FIA, we're working on ways to minimise that impact. It's too early to go into detail yet, because at the moment we're only at the scenario-planning stage, but the key aspect of this process that everyone should bear in mind is this - in cutting costs, which we're all agreed we must do, we mustn't erode Formula 1's essential DNA.

"It's that essential DNA that keeps Formula 1 fans glued to their TV sets the world over every other Sunday, and it's that essential DNA that entices the board members of multi-national corporations to invest in Formula 1 teams as sponsors. Formula 1 is a great sport; it's hugely successful. Successful sports - successful businesses - power through recessions, as long as they're shrewdly managed."



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