Ron Dennis, one of McLaren’s most famous names and a man who helped change and develop the world of F1 in a variety of ways.
Ron Dennis, one of McLaren’s most famous names and a man who helped change and develop the world of F1 in a variety of ways. As the team principal at McLaren for 27 years he was a significant and stable character in the stories of F1 working with some of the sport’s most famous drivers including Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton and Niki Lauda. But where has he come from and what is his story?
Ron Dennis first began his motorsport career working for the Cooper F1 Team at the age of 18 working alongside Jochen Rindt who he moved to Brabham with in 1968 but as Rindt moved to Team Lotus in 1969 Dennis remained at Brabham. In 1971 Dennis partnered with Neil Trundle ( a colleague of his) formed the Rondel Racing team who achieved considerable success in F2.
Dennis’s next venture was a Marlboro backed F2 team and first began to really notice the increasing importance of sponsorship, he then went onto create Project Four which achieved success in F3 and F2 with a continuation of Marlboro backing. By now Dennis’s successful business interests drew attention and Ron aspired to return to the world of Formula One. Ever wondered where the ‘MP4’ part of the chassis name came from in the McLaren team? Well now you know.
Effectively the Project Four team took over the McLaren team introducing the rebranding of McLaren International and Dennis’s control of the team and there began Dennis’s McLaren career and what a career it was.
McLaren up until Ron Dennis’s intervention were struggling in the Formula One world and were in desperate need of rejuvenation which is just what Dennis aspired to do. A series of business transactions in the early 1980’s including creating partners of the McLaren International scheme and the persuasion of Niki Lauda’s return to F1 in 1982 became the catalyst for McLaren to regain success.
By 1984 Dennis had signed Alain Prost for his return to McLaren and partnered alongside the experience Niki Lauda things were looking positive for the team. Dennis was rewarded for his hard work with 12 wins out of 16 as the team won both titles for the 1984 and 1985 season.
1988 came the signing of Ayrton Senna to partner Alain Prost which produced some of the most famous stories in F1’s history as McLaren once again became dominant in the world of F1. Ron Dennis’s ease at handling political behind the scenes actions was crucial in maintaining the teams balance as Senna and Prost clashed in their approach to racing.
Dennis saw success again in 1990 and 1991 with Ayrton Senna but once again hit an engine supplier hurdle which was eventually sorted in 1995 with the highly important agreement arranged by Dennis for the supply of Mercedes Benz engines which still exists today.
Ron Dennis approach to motorsport ensured McLaren returned to form once again and rose from its’ struggles after Dennis headhunted one of F1’s greatest designers Adrian Newey, with the resulting rewards both titles in 1998 and the WDC title in 1999.
To reward Dennis he received a CBE in 2000 and once again his crisis management skills shone in 2001 after persuading Newey to stay at the team whilst also recruiting Raikkonen after Hakkinen announced he was to leave the team. 2005 was a tough year for Dennis but he bounced back from his difficulties by creating a huge sponsorship arrangement with Vodafone for the 2007 season along with the signing of reigning world champion- Fernando Alonso and promising star Lewis Hamilton.
The relationship between Hamilton and Alonso was a difficult one for Dennis to manage with Alonso leaving the team at the end of the year… not too dissimilar to the partnership struggles of Senna and Prost. However one relationship blossomed, the one between Dennis and Hamilton. Hamilton as a young boy told Ron Dennis he wanted to drive for him and from there on in the Briton worked hard to earn his spot in the McLaren F1 team eventually winning the WDC title with the team in 2008.
2009 saw Ron Dennis say a slight goodbye to the reigns of McLaren handing over team principality to Martin Whitmarsh allowing himself to focus on the Automotive (road car) development of the McLaren brand however he is frequently seen in the paddock and is highly regarded for his buisness acumen and appraoch to the business side of F1.
Ron Dennis’s commitment and passion shines through in his dedication and work he has produced in Formula One. He embraced the business nature and clinical decision style of McLaren to create what is one of the most successful teams ever in Formula One. Without his work McLaren would not be where it is today and for that he should be commended.
Author: Grace Cunningham
Blog: The Right Formula
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