With his last vestige of influence over the team removed on Friday, it’s officially the end of an era for Ron Dennis and McLaren.
Following off the back of the coup to remove him from his dual roles as chairman and CEO in November, and the excising of his Project Four designation from the name of the 2017 challenger, the last nail has been driven in with Dennis selling his stake in McLaren.
After 37 years overseeing everything from their racing to their road cars, Dennis is now about as welcome in Woking as the current Honda engine.
At the time of his removal in November, Dennis had pledged to use his “significant shareholding in both [McLaren] companies and my seats on both boards to protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future” clearly unable to do so, he has instead decide to move on entirely.
One of the most accomplished careers in Formula 1 history, Dennis has been overseen ten driver’s and seven constructor’s championships since taking over in 1980 – the latter figure beaten only by Williams and Ferrari, the former unmatched. That said, his recent tenure with the team has been far less successful, more often making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Reassuming the CEO-position after a five-year break in 2014, Dennis’ second stint in charge was the antithesis of his extremely orderly, highly efficient persona.
Whether it was the promotion, demotion and eventual jettisoning of Kevin Magnussen, the disastrous renewal of the McLaren-Honda partnership, his subsequent refusal to allow Honda to supply customer engines, or the bizarre handling of Fernando Alonso’s crash in 2015 pre-season testing, the team continued to drift ever-farther away from its former glory.
Even behind the scenes, things were chaotic, with his ouster reportedly two years in the making after continued disagreements with fellow shareholders Mansour Ojjeh and Bahraini fund Mumtalakat, a last-ditch attempt to buy them out with Chinese investors falling through.
By no means do his recent failures overtake the tremendous impact he already had on the F1 landscape – the first things anyone is sure to mention when discussing Dennis is his creation of the late eighties Senna-Prost super-team, his partnership with Mercedes, and the signing of Lewis Hamilton – but there’s no denying his role in McLaren’s recent dramas.
With Dennis no longer looking over their shoulder and the ascendance of Zak Brown things have already changed, what with the Sauber-Honda deal for 2018, and the team’s foray back into Indycar with Fernando Alonso. Of course, the ultimate goal is to return the team to its standing as a race-winning F1 team – a goal that remains far off in the distance.
Is this the last we will hear of Dennis?
Probably not, but at 70 it most likely marks the end of his impact on the sport. Along with Frank Williams, he is undoubtedly one of the titans of modern F1, and deserves to be lauded as such.
No, it was not the ideal ending, but for a man as intractable and methodical as he was, the absence of a storybook “ride off into the sunset” seems somewhat fitting. In any case, there’s sure to never be another figure in F1 quite like Ron Dennis.