Dennis replaces Whitmarsh as McLaren Group CEO

2014 F1 season

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Ron Dennis has returned to the role of McLaren Group chief executive officer, a position Martin Whitmarsh has held since 2009.

The move comes five years to the day since Whitmarsh took over from Dennis as team principal.

Dennis’s new responsibilities will include examining the competitiveness of their racing outfit. Last year McLaren failed to score a podium finish all season. The last time that happened was in 1980, when Dennis first took control of the company.

“My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance,” said Dennis.

“Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimising every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalise on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.

“During February, I will articulate a new Group strategy and implement the organisational structure best suited to achieving it. I am excited by the prospect of returning to the role of group chief executive officer and working with my many colleagues and fellow shareholders to fulfil our objective – which is to win at whatever we do.”

Dennis stepped backed from the company’s racing activities to take charge of their car production project. Since then they have launched the MP4-12C and P1 models.

McLaren will launch their 2014 F1 contender, the MP4-29, next week.

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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92 comments on “Dennis replaces Whitmarsh as McLaren Group CEO”

  1. Haven’t fully got rid of Whitmarsh yet but it’s a start at least…

    1. I honestly cannot believe the ridiculous rose tinted spectacles with which Ron Dennis is being viewed by most on this site!!

      The slating of Whitmarsh and plaudits for Dennis are completely inaccurate!

      Are we all forgetting that the last time McLaren won a WDC was in 1998??? In case you also forgot – Dennis was the team principal in the 11 years since this happened until he stood down in 2009 and Whitmarsh took over! 11 years!!

      Whitmarsh has only been in charge for 5 years and has done statistically better than Dennis and you’re all calling for his head – so DENNIS can take over??? Are you all mad?

      If I remember correctly, the last time Dennis was in charge the only thing he brought to the table was the total mismanagement of 2 drivers which resulted in losing a sure fire drivers championship and a $100 MILLION fine and almost getting his team banned from F1 for good.


      1. I think you’ll find the last WDC for McLaren was 2008, not 1998. Plus they won another in 1999? I take it you mean WCC :P

      2. WCC is not the only measurement of success in F1.

        1. @kelsier

          So how do YOU measure the success of the team?

      3. As far as I’m concerned, McLaren have won 7 WCC and 11 WDC under Ron’s leadership. Also, when Ron Dennis completed 5 years in charge at McLaren, the team had won 1984 and 1985 WDC.

        It’s hard to believe that this kind of comparison was made. Ron transformed a struggling team into a winning one. NoWintmarsh is doing the opposite…

        1. I mean, it was 10 WDC instead of 11

    2. I hope it won’t take long.. I would guess 2015 Mclaren-Honda will have a different leadership! Will it be Brawn?

  2. I have no idea why this news bring smile upon my face.

    1. *brings

      1. Checo, nice to see you here!

  3. I think Dennis is a greatly competitive person and, though I like Whitmarsh, ideal as team principal. Nonetheless I’m happy to see him back in a relevant role, and I think he can only do good to McLaren.

    1. Agree. Whitmarsh is a far nicer guy than Ron Dennis, but Ron is a far more intelligent human being and a significantly superior leader.

      Mclaren was going to the dogs with Whitmarsh taking lead.. so its about time that Ron stepped in.

      1. Hard to say whether Dennis is more intelligent than Whitmarsh, but he’s definitely more business shrewd.

        I, too, really like Whitmarsh, to the extent that I’ve become a McLaren fan. Really didn’t like McLaren when I started watching (2006ish), to a large degree due to Dennis, but I guess this can only be good for McLaren.

        1. @victor @il-ferrarista

          Anyone who made Jenson Button their #1 driver and scrapped their 2012 design to make a shoebox 2013 contender lacks a little grey matter.

      2. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
        17th January 2014, 0:48

        Whitmarsh is a truly intelligent bloke, and/but how is he such a bad leader (from our POV) then ?

        He’s been working in Mclaren for more than two decedes iirc, and more than one decade alongside at Dennis and the strategists in the team. He must surely have learned the trade in that periode..

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          17th January 2014, 9:47

          I guess you can be the most intelligent person in the world and that doesn’t make you a great leader. Whitmarsh is still an asset to McLaren in the right position but they desperatly need someone else in charge and Dennis has a proven record in the role.

      3. Whitmarsh is to much of a niceguy.

  4. McLaren needs an overhaul in it’s track operations, and judging by last year results, the designing proccess needs to be ironed out too. I don’t know how Martin runs this kind of thing, but I’d love to see Ron’s meticulous and perfectionist approach being used.

    1. Indeed. Seen to much sloppiness at McLaren recently.

    2. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
      17th January 2014, 1:00

      Top tip: check out MotorsportMagazine’s season-ending podcast of 2013 with F1 expert Gary Anderson.

      There he describes how different teams are working on the design of the car. For instance, he tells us and the journalists at MotorspMagazine that in comparison to Red Bull (where Newey leads many design processes), at Mclaren the car is designed by a (sort of) “board”, and have to approved by all engineers in a consensus sort of. If I didn’t hear wrong…, but you can just check he podcast.
      It’s pretty long though.

      1. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
        17th January 2014, 1:02

        ooops almost forgot, here it is. About one third into the podcast he starts to evaluate each team.

        Very critical towards both Ferrari and Mclaren.

      2. Don’t forget about this genius’ relevant analysis from less than a year ago. Have been reading his column past year on BBC and I have to say am less than impressed with his technical ‘insight’. Self proclaimed technical expert.

    3. Absolutely. Even more so in 2012, I would say. They had the car and driver combination to win the WDC and they messed it up.

  5. Fantastic news. Who’s going to be first out of the, Sam Michael or Martin Whitmarsh?

    1. The door swings both ways – Ross Brawn?

      1. brawn is familiar with the way honda work too!

        1. …but, can’t stand Ron at all.

          1. if it wins it works..

  6. He did a cracking job with the two road cars. He seems to be a great manager for a guy who basically came up as a mechanic, rather than through GE’s six-sigma program. Hopefully he will bring McLaren back to glory, or at least back to the podium.

  7. @keithcollantine im confused…Martin Whitmarsh has never been CEO of McLaren Group, he is CEO of McLaren Racing, which is part of the McLaren Group

    what is it that makes you say he is replacing Whitmarsh, it does not state this on their website

    1. @turbo-era Whitmarsh was the previous CEO of McLaren Group and Dennis has replaced him in that role. Just because they haven’t drawn attention to it in their press release doesn’t mean it isn’t the case.

  8. Great! Shame Whitmash still there though

  9. so Dennis will also now be team principle and on the pit wall? or not/. I’m confused.

    1. Unless McLaren announce a replacement of the team principal, I would think that Whitmarsh is still in charge of the F1 team. Maybe it’s just so Whitmarsh can focus on F1 and not be side-tracked by other duties…

  10. Things are getting serious at Mclaren. They seem to have their eyes firmly set on 2015, with Dennis more in charge of the racing team during this year’s championship to fine-tune everything related to the outfit so that they hit the ground running in 2015 with the brand new Honda powertrain.

  11. Great, that means no Alonso in McLaren for as long as the bald guy is alive. Actually, I hoped the spaniard would send LdM and Stefano & co to some place far far away and join the sliver black red team …

    1. Not necessarily, Dennis in doesn’t mean Alonso out

  12. Why am I not surprised ??? Whitmarsh is the Mr. Nice Guy . He was losing the grip over the team around the time Lewis departed. Then it was a bit of a downward slide from then on.

    Stefano might be equally worried. He is a position similar to Whitmarsh.

    1. Big Luca must be happy now. Fernando is cornered. The McLaren door might be shut out for him now. So the Ferrari contract is secure till 2016. Fernando might have waited to see how this power struggle between Whitmarsh and Ron play out. I am guessing he might not have risked seeing himeslf in McLaren with Dennis at top and another fast rookie (Kevin) like Lewis besides him. DeJavu !!!!!

      Safe move for Fernando and Kimi to be in Ferrari ….

      1. @tmax I was thinking things very similar to you! I believe Ferrari have betrayed Fernando by employing Kimi. I was hoping that Fernando could move to McLaren for 2015 and win the third title which he deserves. This may be on ice for now.

        1. “on ice” – nice pun, given Kimi ;-)

      2. and another fast rookie (Kevin)

        That is yet to be tested and determined.

    2. Stefano does not care, he wanted to leave long time ago, he is actually doing LdM a favour by staying, because he was asked to stay.

      Stefano does have his main strengths in other areas beside Team Principle, but as LdM can’t find a suitable candidate, Stefano staying put.

  13. …and Ross Brawn is sitting at home with nothing to do either this season or next. Now who did Honda sell their team to? And who was it that used to run Honda engines in the late 80’s and early 90’s with multiple championships?

  14. I have nothing against Whitmarsh personally….but I remember thinking even before he got the position that he would not do a good job, and found it unbelievable that I did not hear more noises to the same…..I don’t usually gloat in “I told you so” mentality, but in this case…..

  15. I think that could be a pivotal event in reversing McLaren’s fortunes in coming seasons – I have always felt Whitmarsh was far too nice a person to be considered sufficiently adequate for managing a team with the ambition that McLaren has.

    Ron Dennis is far superior in that regard, and with the arrival of Honda in 2015 I can see a resurgence from McLaren: perhaps Dennis can relieve the brilliant initial success of a McLaren Project 4.

    1. Just to spice things up I can throw up this conspiracy theory. What if the 2013 McLaren design was sabotaged as an inside job against Whitmarsh ?????? How else can one explain a radical change in design of the fastest car on the grid of 2012. It was going to be thrown away after 1 year given 2014 was altogether new regulations.

      Also just the fact that McLaren and Honda are coming together does not guarantee an instant success to the team. Yeh Williams and renault Came together , Brawn and Schumi came together again we all know where both scenarios ended up.

      1. “How else can one explain a radical change in design of the fastest car on the grid of 2012.”

        They made the decision before it became the fastest car on the grid ‘towards the end’ of 2012, and were too committed and have already admitted this. I seriously doubt it was an inside job, why would Ron sabotage his own team, Martin is doing a pretty good job of it on his own.

      2. @tmax Ahh, someone watches House of Cards :p

  16. Never really liked Ron, but I think that McLaren made the right decision here.

    1. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
      17th January 2014, 1:06

      Just why?? I’m just curious you know :-p .

      Was it because of his ‘perfectionism’?

  17. Good. Now he can whip their hides back into shape for 2015.

  18. Good to hear some more Ronspeak. Nobody mangles English quite like he does.

    1. +100 ;-)

  19. I guess Alonso’s staying at Ferrari then…

    1. Absolutely.

      Alonso to McLaren = Dead

    2. Yeah, if Dennis is going to have a bigger role in McLaren’s F1 operations going forward then I doubt his old buddy Fernando will be too keen to re-join.

    3. I thought only whitmarsh talked of teflonso ?
      I feel in my heart that Ron would not have him back after his dummy spits and his excessive salary and the talent pool ron can draw from for far less cash .

    4. Yep. This shuts the door for Alonso going to Mclaren.

      The only other way Alonso can get a top drive is if Mercedes has a bad run for a few years, and Ron lures Lewis back to Mclaren. That would open a seat at Mercedes for Alonso.

  20. Headline should read “McLaren finds balls, reattaches.”

  21. Oh 2014, it is ON :D

    1. I think 2014 is not in the picture for Dennis, the car is pretty much done now without his hand on it. But look out for 2015 with Dennis/Honda!

  22. Good. I’m not Ron’s biggest fan and I despair of “Ronspeak” but Martin Whitmarsh has been at best ineffectual and at worst indecisive. McLaren deserves to be in the top 3 where it has historically been in the decades I’ve been an F1 fan. I only hope that Ross Brawn will become team principal and do unto Mercedes what he did to the rest of the F1 field with Honda/Brawn in 2009… (and with Ferrari in 97-06)

  23. So, Martin is still Team Principal?
    Then they return more less to the previous status Ron the Boss and Martin the yes-man.

    I never liked Ron Dennis because I don’t like that kind management stile (I’m involved in everything and people must follow my instructions), but it’s true that people used to work under that kind of management stile is not ready to take more responsibilities basically because they are not used to think and act. They just follow orders.

    Martin Whitmarsh is that kind of person, and unfortunately he has not been able to broke that situation.

    In any case IMHO, I think McLaren has taken a step backwards. Ron is over his maximum competence and McLaren is not going to be ready to make a big leap in order to recover the winning rute.

    1. I agree. I think Ron’s form of leadership is too “dictatorial”. And I also think McLaren have gone backwards. Of course, I’m sure some things might run more efficiently in now, but it will not be as easy for him this time around. In this case, only time will tell.

  24. I’m not a fan of Ron’s personality, but he’s damn good at what he does. McLaren needs a serious overhaul after the disaster that was 2013, and he’s by far the best man to get it done.

  25. Not a Ron Dennis fan, but McLaren must do something different than what they have been doing. A definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and then expect different results.

    It is probably too late to effect much design change on the 2014 car, but certainly all phases of the racing operations can be improved throughout the 2014 season and in anticipation of 2015 and the new McLaren/Honda era. It could be argued that this should have been done long before the 2014 season, but that’s why I think the focus is more toward 2015 while trying not to lose any more ground to the rest of the field in 2014.

    To his credit, Ron Dennis is a fierce competitor and that is what McLaren needs now. My guess is he will not retake the team principal job. I don’t think Whitmarsh will last the season, but may remain until his replacement is ready to come on board. Perhaps, Ross Brawn.

  26. Not exactly a resounding endorsement of Martin Whitmarsh’s ability to lead McLaren. Was McLaren’s worst season in over 30 years enough to bring Ron Dennis back to a position of power over the F1 team? And is this demotion of Whitmarsh a prelude to him being removed as team principal in the near future?

    Uncertainty and instability is never a good thing for an F1 team, and with there being plenty of that over McLaren’s engine suppliers both this year and next, I’d be worried that the effects on the F1 team could be profound. However, if there’s one man that can right McLaren it’s Ron Dennis.

    1. Perhaps not to mention the mindset that their Number 1 driver must be dealing with right now…

  27. This is exactly what McLaren needed to do. I’m sure Whitmarsh will be working elsewhere within the year.

  28. I have a feeling McLaren might start winning again now.

  29. its looking like McLaren are set for 2015, with Dennis back in control and Honda having the huge advantage to sit and watch an entire year I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the team to beat.

  30. The crucial question of course is… will that fetching black leather jacket make a return too ?

  31. I just don’t understand why most of the people believe that McLaren-Honda combination will bring instant success. I hope Lotus goes for Honda engine as well, just to differentiate in tech terms as much as possible from Red Bull. We must bear in mind the fact that major advantage of Honda turbo engine was due to the variable valve timing. Something not permited by contemprary technical regulations. I still believe they are capable of building a good engine however in the last seasons of their involvement they seemed ‘a bit’ lost. Consequently I’m not so sure about their instant success.

    1. Don’t think Lotus will make it to 3rd GP this year.

    2. Agreed that success for McLaren/Honda would not be instant, or guaranteed. However, it would give them a chance to be more like a works team than their current situation with Mercedes. Honda will be happy to supply the best possible engine package whilst McLaren gets to worry about building the best possible chassis. McLaren was so close to being on top speed-wise in 2012 that a refocus might bring them back close again. They could do it.

      I’m also optimistic Lotus could be a good candidate for Honda power for the reason you mentioned. Lotus may not be out of the woods yet, but I think they will find a way to make it through the season. Lotus wanted dispensation from Renault for 2014, but I don’t think Renault wants to do anything to disrupt the Red Bull juggernaut at this point.

  32. Whitmarsh is the 1st to get criticized by people on here because of McLaren’s recent form, However the same people who want Ron back conveniently ignore the fact that the team also went through similar struggles when Ron was team boss the last time.

    Ron failed to manage the Prost/Senna & Alonso/Hamilton partnerships well which led to problems. McLaren went through poor seasons from 1994-1997 & had plenty of struggles between 2000-2006. Ron was also lets not forget at the head during the design of the 2009 car which began very poorly.

    Also not all of McLaren’s problems since 2009 have been down to Whitmarsh. They had a strong car in 2010, 2011 & 2012 & on many occasions it was the drivers that let the team down (Hamilton through 2011 especially).

    Those thinking Ron been involved with the F1 team again will change there fortune as if there were never any problems when he was head in the past are misguided.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks like this.

    2. @davey Even so, Ron’s last full season as team principal ended with them taking the Drivers title. Yes, Ron encountered some serious issues, but at least they were still winning. On the other hand, McLaren may have had some fast cars in recent years, but they’ve won 0 titles with them. Sure, one can blame the drivers, but Lewis was the one driver managed by both Ron and Martin. Lewis won with Ron, but not with Martin.

    3. Are we comparing winning with making it into the points here, really?

      Issues of drivers fighting for Championship is something every Team Principle would love to have, it’s a job hazard.

    4. I agree with this. McLaren has been very strong on a number of occasions under Whitmarsh’s leadership. In 2012 over the course of the season they had arguably the fastest car. 2013 was a disaster, no denying it, but it’s a fool who thinks that the ‘Dennis years’ weren’t also plagued by these mysterious inexplicable dips in performance. Don’t forget this is also the man whose inability to successfully manage his drivers in 2007 effectively cost them both championships and lost them one of the biggest talents on the grid. His tenure was marred by repeated clashes with both the FIA and FOM over issues which more savvy businessmen would have handled far better.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see McLaren giving things a proper shake up and I think the timing is good for them to get their ducks in a line for the 2015 season when they will be entering into something of a new chapter for the team. But I don’t think it’s right to make out like Ron Dennis’s stint as principle marked some kind of golden age for McLaren, or that Whitmarsh’s time has been completely bereft of success.

      Now, I wonder if Ross Brawn is in Dennis’s contacts list..

  33. How is it so many people are commenting as if Martin has been ditched as team principle!? Guys, sorry to break it to you…..

  34. Why is everyone assuming this is good, as if Ron is in his 40s? When you stop once, it’s over, unless you are not even half way through. You can’t just assume position of the #1 man and run with it. He needs to get the whole thing working to his rhythm again, he needs to get up to speed and I don’t think he himself has 100% dedication to do it all over again.

    I think that was one of the most striking things that I took from Ross Brawn’s interview after he said he is taking time off. He noted that he will have to see if he has one more stint in him. You just don’t have that inner burning desire, even though you might still have a rational will to go and do the best job you can. It’s not an old man’s game and if your desire it tameable, it means it’s not strong enough anymore. Just like Schumacher’s return in 2010. He liked it and he did enjoy it I suppose, but he came because he thought the car comes with a title, judging by their 2009 form, not because he wanted to do it all over again, like he did in 1996.

    1. I think what you say is 100% right but I’d say Mclaren plc haven’t got many options. Anything is a gamble, unless they got Newey. Dennis’ track record, excuse the pun, with Mclaren F1 and then Mclaren road cars is impeccable

  35. Fantastic news! Now all we need is Flavio at Lotus/Reanult back and everything will be back to normal!! LMAO!!

  36. Best F1 news I’ve heard this offseason.

  37. All they need to do is hire Nicolas Prost and Bruno Senna for 2015 and they’ll have the dream team.

  38. why this change so late on 2 weeks before testing ? me thinks the mp4/29 isn’t going to produce what they thought this year errors like last year so an immediate change is needed I too think Ron is the better man for the job.

  39. I’d rather go for a drink with Whitmarsh but Ron is a one off. An obsessive, a difficult man but a genius in his field. very happy to see him back, watching Senna 38 x over the last couple of years made me miss him strangely.

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