On this day in 2009: Ron Dennis steps down as McLaren Racing CEO

PA Sport Staff
·2-min read

Ron Dennis stepped down as chief executive officer of McLaren Racing on this day in 2009, seemingly bringing his 43-year association with Formula One to an end.

While Dennis retained his 15 per cent shareholding, he had no executive authority after also standing down as chairman of the McLaren Group, with the sweeping changes taking place after a meeting with the other shareholders.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who admitted to tendering his resignation – which was rejected – in the wake of the ‘lie-gate’ scandal, assumed full control of all matters F1.

Lewis Hamilton, left, was at McLaren at the time of Ron Dennis' departure (Martin Rickett/PA)
Lewis Hamilton, left, was at McLaren at the time of Ron Dennis’ departure (Martin Rickett/PA)

Richard Lapthorne, then chairman of Cable and Wireless, was appointed non-executive chairman of the McLaren Group, a position he took up in June of that year.

As for Dennis, he took up the chairmanship of McLaren Automotive, and was effectively marginalised as that was due to split from the McLaren Group later that year and become an independent company.

Dennis insisted his decision was one he took alone, and had no bearing on the World Motor Sport Council hearing into the incident that resulted in Lewis Hamilton lying to stewards.

But even Dennis may have appreciated his departure would have been viewed by many as a blessing given the animosity that existed over the years between himself and F1’s hierarchy.

Malboro McLaren New Line-up – Nigel Mansell and Mika Hakkinen
Ron Dennis, right, with Mika Hakkinen and Nigel Mansell in 1995 (David Giles/PA)

“I admit I’m not always easy to get on with. I admit I’ve always fought hard for McLaren in Formula One,” he said.

“I doubt if Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by my decision. But no-one asked me to do it. It was my decision.”

The latest furore, coming so soon after the ‘spy-gate’ saga in which McLaren were fined 100 million US dollars and thrown out of the constructors’ championship, put tremendous pressure on the team.

Martin Whitmarsh assumed full control of all matters F1 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)
Martin Whitmarsh assumed full control of all matters F1 (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

At a time when McLaren were meant to be rebuilding bridges with the FIA, they dismantled them again in spectacular style as they attempted to lay claim to third place in the Australian Grand Prix.

But it appeared the penny finally dropped at McLaren that they had to work with, not against, motor sport’s governing body.

As Whitmarsh added: “Anyone who has looked at the relationship between McLaren and the FIA over the last few years would conclude that it would be healthier for all of us to have a more positive, constructive relationship than perhaps we have had in the past.”

In 2014, Dennis returned to his role as group chief executive officer after ousting Whitmarsh following a shareholders’ vote.