Ron Dennis: McLaren’s return to success “sooner rather than later”
Ron Dennis has said that McLaren is well placed to return to the front of the grid “sooner rather than later”, citing the “tremendous” success Mercedes has achieved with its power unit as a key component to the team’s comeback.
The former team principal was pragmatic but upbeat when asked by SkySports on what his motivations were upon his return back at the helm of McLaren Group after the team’s “barren” 2013 season.
“Obviously we didn’t finish the season or even begin it last year as we would have liked,” admitted Dennis. “So the first thing is to regroup and focus on a really good baseline start. We pushed hard through the winter to develop a car that addressed all the issues that were inherent in last year’s car. the negative issues.”
“I think everybody could reflect on Bahrain and they can see moments of speed in several cars but this year’s got a very complex power plant and managing the complex systems – Fuel consumption, tyre wear, etc, is critical to the outcome of the race.”
“Putting aside reliability, it’s going to be little bit of a tortoise and hare racing, which I think will make Formula One very very interesting, maybe not in the opening races but throughout the season, and clearly we intend to be the hare.”
Dennis echoed Dr. Vijay Mallya’s earlier comments about Mercedes powered teams enjoying a clear advantage over their rivals.
“Of course this year we have the best power plant. No question Mercedes has done a tremendous job which will give us some advantage over some of our competitors, in the early part of the season at least. But actually the car’s been proven to be pretty reliable and quite competitive.”
While Dennis is hard at work reshaping the Woking based team back to its former glory, he made it clear he will not micromanage its day to day operations.
“My role as chief executive of the group is to develop the group. I have a vision for where we’re going. It’s supported by the shareholders, of which of course I am one, that have determined to have me returned to this position. It’s one that I wanted to do because I didn’t enjoy non-executive status.
“Although I’m a little mature, I’m full of energy, and very very focused and passionate about the sport. But as regards to grand prix racing, this is something we have to excel at. There was variety of reasons I felt we weren’t succeeding. Those have been addressed, and the team will be a far more focused animal than it’s been in the past.
“There are a lot of great people. We just got to harness their combined talents and get the team back to winning as soon as possible.”
“Everybody has a different management style. Of course It’s great if everybody love you. But in this competitive world it’s just not possible. I don’t go out of my way to upset people. But I do go out of my way to make sure that everybody know what is expected of them. We are in one of the world’s most competitive sports. But I also think we’re in the world of competitive technology company. Second just isn’t in my vocabulary. It’s the first of the losers. We’re here to win at everything we do. That requires focus, dedication, sacrifice and commitment. I put a lot of those values in myself and I expect it from everybody that works in the company. And if they don’t want to give it, leave. We’re about winning, certainly not about coming second.”
Dennis also revealed that amidst the personnel changes, including the departure of Martin Whitmarsh as team principal, the team will evolve to committee style governance, a departure from the traditional singular team principal organizational structure.
“We will not have a team principal. We’ll have a racing director, a sporting director, and a technical director. These are frontline individuals in regards to our racing programme,” Dennis explained. “I feel strongly the model of Formula One has to change, primarily because of the fact that in former years, there were approximately 6 intercontinental races and 10 European races. We now have 6 European races and 10 intercontinental races. This means that the team is away from its base for 4 months of the year. Therefore the centre of the power has to be at the company. Hence the chief executive of the racing operation being the key individual for our future. That position is unfilled. Currently Jonathan Neale is deputizing in that role, assisted by myself. But that assistance will not see me attend all the grands prix or even attend a grand prix in the capacity of the team member.”
“I’m going to be watching and determining how the team should be modified for the future. We were recognized in many ways as the best team in Formula One, and I want to quickly return us to that status. It’s not just about winning Formula One. It’s about doing everything we do, doing it the best possible way. That is why this attention to detail, perhaps which I’m well known for, has got to be re-applied to every aspect of McLaren’s operation and most certainly its grand prix team.”
Dennis reiterated the importance of winning races as opposed to winning championships as the best way to not only compete, but to maximize the rate of return for the team’s sponsors.
“I think it’s important to remember that this team’s more about winning races than it is about winning championships. I understand everybody wrestles with that concept. But at the end of the day, when your cars are winning in front of the television camera, we’re giving a quantifiable return to our investors, to the people who pay for their brands to be on our cars, and that’s what we’re focused on. If we win championships, then that’s great.
“We run equality in our team, at all stages. We give equal equipment to both drivers and that sometimes hampers the drivers to win a world championship because points get split between two drivers. But it’s the way we are – It’s our principles, it’s our values, and they will never change.”
Image Courtesy of McLaren F1
Peter is a freelance journalist and graphics editor at Richland F1. His work has been featured in the Australian Formula 3 Series, A1GP and the Champ Car World Series. A contributor to E-Racing Magazine, Peter has appeared on BBC World & AOL's Autoblog Podcast as guest F1 correspondent. He can be found musing about all manner of things motorsport under his nom de plume on Twitter @BaronVonClutch.