As if 2007 wasn’t bad enough for McLaren, 2008 has begun pretty badly for the Woking-based team. Over the past few days police in Modena have said they have collected evidence from the homes of senior McLaren personnel. The team has hit back at the Italian police’s wording, even threatening to involve the Home Office in this whole sorry affair.
These latest twists in the Stepneygate saga have heightened speculation that Ron Dennis will be asked to step aside by the overlords at McLaren Mercedes. As Pitpass has so methodically pointed out, Mr Dennis couldn’t possibly be fired because he is an overlord at McLaren Mercedes and owns a 15% share of McLaren Group.
But I wonder if all this talk of firing is really missing the point. The thing is, Ron Dennis is damaged goods. There is no doubt about it. While he still owns 15% of the company, the notion that Ron Dennis will now take a back seat surely isn’t ridiculous.
And it is rather clear to me that this is exactly what has happened. I remember, for instance, the credulity that Negative Camber at Formula1Blog expressed when McLaren’s apology was signed by Martin Whitmarsh rather than Ron Dennis. Then when it came to the launch of the new McLaren challenger, Dennis played a minimal role in proceedings.
In fact, I can scarcely think of anything that Ron Dennis has actually said since November or December. He is definitely lying low. Certainly over the past few days with the speculation surrounding Dennis’s position within the McLaren Group, Martin Whitmarsh has done all the talking. There hasn’t been a peep out of Ron Dennis.
The point is that in the eyes of the fans and the media, Ron Dennis has lost an awful lot of credibility. As such — no matter what the bigwigs at McLaren think — he is in no position to lead the McLaren team with authority. In short, he is a lame duck.
Whether Ron Dennis is “fired” or not is moot. It is clear that being at the helm of McLaren will do neither the F1 team nor Ron Dennis himself any good. Surely Ron Dennis is simply mulling over his options before opting to step aside.