Under-fire McLaren boss Ron Dennis could be poised to relinquish control of the team he took the forefront of Formula One as early as this week, if speculation in the British press is to be believed.

Having survived rumours that he had been fired in the wake of ongoing private investigations into last season's espionage row, Dennis has frequently been linked to retirement over the past year, and the Sunday Times newspaper says sources close to the 61-year old reckon he could go before the start of the new F1 season.

The report claims that Dennis would have stepped back from leading the team in 2007 had its not been for the spy row that blew up in his face and, for many, sullied the image of both team and individual. Fiercely proud, Dennis backed his company to the hilt, only to appear out of the loop when it came to knowing exactly how far information illegally gleaned from rival Ferrari had permeated into the management infrastructure.

He remained on board to steer McLaren through the mire created by disgraced designer Mike Coughlan, and muddied further by the involvement of Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa, but continues to face pressure as the Italian authorities press on with their own investigation into the affair.

The success of rookie Lewis Hamilton - a McLaren prot?g? for ten years - also played a part in delaying Dennis' departure but, with the Briton now well-established as an F1 frontrunner, the time may finally be right to pass on the mantle of running the team.

The report claims that, perhaps prompted by the end of his seemingly solid 22-year marriage to wife Lisa, Dennis realises that the time has now come to devote more attention to his family, and could make the announcement that he is to step down as team principal sometime this week, before McLaren heads off to Melbourne for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Martin Whitmarsh, currently Dennis' right-hand man at McLaren, is expected to succeed his mentor as team boss - something that Dennis alluded to publicly at the press conference following last year's WMSC hearing into the 'spygate' affair.

 

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